My Copy: 9780802130914 (image from pinterest)
Well, after digging into the plays of Shakespeare for a few weeks, I have to say this one was worlds away in every way imaginable…so far.
I’d always heard of Glengarry Glen Ross, and had no idea what the hell it was about. Of course, the movie’s out there with a stellar cast and the whole “coffee is for closers” bit that I’d heard (but never knew where it came from–hint, the movie, not the play).
Well, at some point I’m going to be taking David Mamet’s Masterclass, so I figured I’d do some preliminary reading of one of his plays. This one had something to it, though I figure I’ll have to read it a few more times (with more dramatic interpretation under my belt) to really get it.
I get the general tone of the play. It’s about real estate salesmen who are driven to be the best and get the grand prize, to close the deal no matter what. In this case, the grand prize is a Cadillac. This leads to some choices by the employees at this office, some of whom are hard-bitten, world-weary, and foul mouthed to the utmost. One of them knows he’s on his way out, that he just doesn’t have it anymore because he doesn’t get good “leads.”
Well, what would happen if the leads were stolen and sold to someone else for a hefty profit and a job offer?
That’s the basic action in a play that is probably 98.5% dialogue. There isn’t much in the way of stage directions, descriptions–a few bits of action and movement, usually while the dialogue was flowing, but that’s it.
The “Glengarry Glen Ross” of the title refers to some of the prized deals that have gone through or are going through, legendary in the office, the ideal. The whole play is driven by the desperation of these men to follow the great mantra of the salesman: “Always be closing.”
I kind of wish I’d seen the movie before picking this play up and reading it–probably could never see it on t.v. because of the constant foul language (so if you have sensitive ears or eyes, don’t bother reading it–I think it’s got more “f**k”s than The Wolf of Wall Street, if that’s even possible according to this Honest Trailer).
But at the same time, I admit, the scarcity of distraction just let the dialogue flow right through me. I had to slow myself down and go back a few times to make sure I got things right. Technically, I read it twice: once to get the story down, the second time to put the people and scene in my head and get a gist of what’s going on.
The terminology threw me off a bit–never been much of a salesperson myself. But eventually I got absorbed enough that I could figure it out pretty decently.
I’m still not 100% sure if I got the gist of this play, but if you want to read about how to handle dialogue in drama, I think this is a good start. It’s largely reactive, a little reflective, but there are no lengthy monologues. It’s fast-talking and fast-paced, you can tell from the words and the abruptness.
That translates really freaking well.
I’ll read more plays as time goes on, other than Shakespeare. I doubt I’ll be a dramatic writer, but I think we can learn a lot from plays–especially writing in general–and so I’ll keep studying.
Not a bad first pick for a non-Shakespeare play, though. Makes me want to watch the movie (or rather, see it on stage first, then see the movie).