I had to laugh when I started reading due to the Mamet-speak. I've been over OLEANNA backwards and forwards thanks to the necessity of defending my take on the play at various times, and the GLENGARRY characters all speak in Mamet-speak, just like the two characters in OLEANNA.
In fact one of the most striking aspects of Mamet's plays is just how little differentiation there is among the characters, but GLENGARRY makes it so obvious.
If you've read any advice on writing plays, you know that distinct character voices is one of the holy grails in the world of script writing - plays or screenplays. Here is one example of that kind of advice:
Giving Your Character A Unique Voice
An important part of creating a character is allowing them to have a unique voice. This means that anyone reading your screenplay would instantly recognise which character is talking, without even looking at the character tag!
You absolutely can NOT recognize which character is talking in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS without some kind of reference. For instance, there is a scene where two of the salesmen are discussing robbing their office - after the office is robbed I had to keep flipping back to that scene to remind myself who was originally planning it.
And I was able to remember who Levine was because I knew he was played by Jack Lemmon in the movie version.
And it's Mamet's ability to get important actors to perform in his plays, I submit, that is why his plays are considered important. But GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS had zero emotional impact on me - compared to DEATH OF A SALESMAN which absolutely did have an impact. Both plays deal with salesmen trying to make deals, a subject that is utterly without intrinsic interest, but I got to know Willie Loman enough to care about his death. I really didn't care, based on the script, if Levine succeeded or failed. However, I'll bet that with Jack Lemmon in the role, you do care, because Jack Lemmon is quite possibly the greatest movie actor of all time.
Another important difference between the movie and the play - the movie opens with a scene where Alec Baldwin - a movie-only character - explains what's at stake. In the play you gradually glean it through a long restaurant conversation scene. I found the play script pretty boring for the most part. I mean yeah, business is a nasty business and people get screwed and screw others all the time. Anybody who has to work for a living doesn't need to be told. But having some of the most important actors of the late 20th century be in the movie version of your play doesn't hurt one bit.
The play does have a few funny bits though - I thought this was especially amusing:
WILLIAMSONI'm so glad Pacino turns out to be cast in this role - I hope they let him say that line in the movie, I can hear him saying it when I read it.
Now I'm giving you three...
Three? I count two.
Patel? Fuck you. Fuckin' Shiva handed him a million dollars, told him "sign the deal" he wouldn't sign. And Vishnu too. Into the bargain...
Oh wait, I just checked Youtube - they do keep that speech in - awesome.
I just thought that little piece of cultural color was amusing and a nice change of pace from just calling Patel a wog, as earlier in the script.
You almost care about Levine because he mentions his daughter a couple of times. We don't learn anything about her though - just that he has one. Mamet doesn't have time to let us get to know anything about her because really, do women count for anything but as a symbol of either sex or domesticity? Not in Mamet-land.
WAITING FOR LEFTY on the other hand, does deal with the taxi drivers who are considering going on strike and their relationships with the women in their lives - actual female characters appear on stage. And I thought that the character of Florence was amazingly vivid and distinctive. Here she is talking to her cab driver boyfriend:
Hello, Honey. You're looking tired.
Naw, I just need a shave.
Well, draw your chair up to the fire and I'll ring for brandy and soda... like in the movies.
If this was the movies I'd bring a big bunch of roses.
Fifty or sixty dozen - the kind with long, long stems - big as that...
Your Paris gown is beautiful.
Yes, Percy, velvet panels are coming back again. Madam La Farge told me today that Queen Marie herself designed it.
Every princess in the Balkans is wearing one like this.
(Does a camera... Suddenly she falls out of the posture and softly goes to him to embrace him, to kiss him with love. Finally:)
You look tired, Florrie.
Naw, I just need a shave.
(She laughs tremendously.)
You worried about your mother?
What's on your mind?
FLORENCEI can't imagine Mamet writing a female character like that ever.
The French and Indian War.
Even though the taxi drivers don't get nearly as many lines as the salesmen in GLENGARRY, we understand what is at stake for them much better. Which is why it's that much more stirring when they do strike at the end.
Of course the message of LEFTY is more stirring anyway - that people can work together to improve conditions, whereas the message of GLENGARRY is that everybody is corrupt and/or mean, everything sucks and then you die. Which might be true but I don't consider watching representations of same a form of entertainment.