Glengarry Glen Ross is a 1982 play written by David Mamet. The play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate to unwitting prospective buyers. The play draws partly on Mamet's experiences of life in a Chicago real estate office, where he worked briefly in the late 1960s. The title of the play comes from the names of two of the real estate developments being peddled by the salesmen characters, Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms.
The play opened on Broadway on March 25, 1984 and closed on February 17, 1985. The production was directed by Gregory Mosher and starred Joe Mantegna, Mike Nussbaum, Robert Prosky, Lane Smith, James Tolkan, Jack Wallace and J. T. Walsh. The production was nominated for four Tony awards including Best Play, Best Director, and two Best Featured Actor nominations for Robert Prosky and Joe Mantegna, who won the production's one Tony.
Setting: a Chinese restaurant
Scene 1: Shelley Levene tries to convince office Manager John Williamson to give him some of "the Glengarry leads" (names and phone numbers of promising potential clients for expensive properties). Williamson is willing to sell some of the prime leads, but demands cash in advance. Levene cannot come up with the cash and must leave without any good leads to work with.
Scene 2: Dave Moss and George Aaronow hate the pressure management has put on them to succeed. Moss tells Aaronow that they need to strike back by stealing all the Glengarry leads and selling them to another real estate agency. Moss's plan would require Aaronow to break into the office, stage a burglary, and steal all the prime leads. Aaronow wants no part of the plan, but Moss intimidates him, claiming that he is already an accomplice simply by listening to Moss's pitch.
Scene 3: Ricky Roma delivers a monologue to James Lingk. Roma does not bring up the real estate he wants to sell to Lingk until the very end. Instead, Roma preys upon Lingk's insecurities, and his sense that he has never done anything adventurous with his life.
Setting: a real estate sales office
The burglary is discovered. Williamson has called in a police detective. Shelley Levene is happy, because he has finally sold a large plot of land to a couple named Nyborg. James Lingk enters the office, looking for Ricky Roma. Lingk's wife has ordered him to cancel the sales contract he signed with Roma. Roma attempts to trick Lingk into not cancelling the contract; Levene supports the ruse, but Williamson accidentally ruins Roma's ploy.
Roma is furious at Williamson, who has blown a big sale. Levene picks up where Roma left off, and begins insulting Williamson. Williamson realizes then that Levene must have been the thief and threatens to tell his suspicions to the police detective. Levene folds, and admits that he and Dave Moss were the thieves. When Roma comes back from his interrogation, Williamson goes to tell the detective that Moss and Levene are the thieves. Roma, who has no idea what just went on between Williamson and Levene, proposes to Levene that they should form their own partnership. Shelley smiles sadly, and agrees, knowing that he is going to be arrested any moment. The detective comes out and calls Levene's name. Levene meekly walks away with the detective.
Roma, now alone with Williamson, confirms their arrangement: he has not only been paying for the lucrative Glengarry leads, but he has also convinced Williamson to give Levene the worst leads in an effort to sabotage him.
There was controversy over lines in the play, and in the movie adaptation of it, in which it was claimed prejudice was shown against people from India. As a result, Mamet removed the language from the latest Broadway revival. The controversial dialogue is included in the movie version about a potential lead from the Patels, a family from India.
Cast and characters:
- Derek Newark as Shelley Levene
- Karl Johnson as John Williamson
- Trevor Ray as Dave Moss
- James Grant as George Aaronow
- Jack Shepherd as Richard Roma
- Tony Haygarth as James Lingk
- John Tams as Baylen
Glengarry Glen Ross premiered in the United States at the Goodman Theatre of the Arts Institute of Chicago in a Chicago Theatre Groups, Inc. production on February 6, 1984. The play opened on Broadway on March 25, 1984 at the John Golden Theatre, in a production directed by Gregory Mosher. The original American cast is below, with Lane Smith replacing William L. Petersen on Broadway.
Cast and characters:
- Robert Prosky – Shelley Levene
- J. T. Walsh – John Williamson
- James Tolkan – Dave Moss
- Mike Nussbaum – George Aaronow
- Joe Mantegna – Richard Roma
- Lane Smith – James Lingk
- Jack Wallace – Baylen
Cast and characters:
- Alan Alda – Shelley Levene
- Frederick Weller – John Williamson
- Gordon Clapp – Dave Moss
- Jeffrey Tambor – George Aaronow
- Liev Schreiber – Richard Roma
- Tom Wopat – James Lingk
- Jordan Lage – Baylen
The revival received numerous Tony Award nominations, including Best Featured Actor nominations for Alda, Clapp and Schreiber, with Schreiber taking home the prize. The production also won a Tony for Best Revival of a Play.
On September 27, 2007, the play was revived at the Apollo Theatre, London, starring Jonathan Pryce (who played client James Lingk in the 1992 film adaptation) as Shelley, alongside Aidan Gillen (Roma), Paul Freeman (George), Matthew Marsh (Dave) and Peter McDonald (Williamson). The production was directed by James Macdonald.