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If Glengarry Glen Ross is about two things, it's about talking and desperation; it is a play about salesmen. It kind of reminded me of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesmen in a very little way, but where Death of a Salesman is sad and relaxed and emotional, Mamet's work is nasty, rough and short. The play introduces four struggling salesmen at various stages of their careers, all employed by the same Chicago real-estate office.
The first act consists of three short scenes set in the Chinese restaurant that serves as an extension of their actual office. In this scene Shelly "The Machine" Levene is pleading with manager John Williamson for a couple of hot sales leads. Levene used to be a hotshot but is getting old and is in the middle of his worst cold streak, and throughout the play Mamet shows a man with very little dignity remaining and who is absolutely desperate for a big break.
The next two characters Mamet introduces are Dave Moss and George Aaranow who also are workers at the real-estate office. These two men discuss the abstract notion that someone should steal the leads from their office. The further they discuss the idea the less abstract this notion becomes. Their conversation dealing with this is somewhat funny. Next Mamet introduces Richard Roma. Roma's character is introduced with a very interesting monologue because it just seems to be different than the rest of the play. I really found this monologue to be powerfully written and I've seen it performed on screen equally as well. In a play about talking, his success as a salesman is obviously shown to be his ability to open his mouth and speak with a strange sort of authority.
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The second act takes place the following morning in the sales office and is one continuous scene. A crime has occurred in the office and investigations are underway. As events play themselves out, the desperation at the play's center begins to show. Mamet puts four nervous, unraveling men in a cage, and then stands back as they pace nervously and once in a while bark at each other. Watching him do this with his words is quite funny, yet still he keeps a tense feel to it all. He shows these men to care only about who is not bringing in the sales, who is on top, who is going to win the Cadillac?
At the end of the play Shelly "The Machine" Levine gets apprehended by the police for the break in of the sales office and the theft of the sales leads. He leaves the office in disgrace and is just another example of the downward spiral of an unfortunate man's life. All in all this was a very good play and I really enjoyed it. I like the movie a lot as well but after reading Mamet's original version of it I can see how the film version could have been done better and more accurately to the text.