In this play, Mamet has found his strongest metaphor for the complexity of human relationships. A group of salesmen, vying for “leads” to hot prospects for a Florida land scheme, make use of language not only to “close” their prospects but also to obfuscate their actual intentions, which include robbing the “leads” from the real estate office. On the surface, every salesman is a man for himself, and the last emotion one would expect is friendship and loyalty among them. They can only judge their success by the sales they make, and the “board” of the contest is the measurement of that success. The best leads get the best closes, and if a man is too far down on the list of persons getting leads, he never has a chance to catch up. In this respect, the play is reminiscent of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949), because the American Dream of success is separated from the method, from the moral premise behind success.
The first-act scenes in the restaurant are hard-edged dialogues, almost monologues with a responding listener. Moss and Aaronow, whom the audience originally suspects for the office break-ins, are an example of the intimidation relationship in which Mamet excels. Aaronow is drawn into the robbery by dint of Moss’s ability to “sell” his guilt to him. As in American Buffalo, the criminal turns his crime around into a sort of revenge against someone who did not play by the rules—here it is Moss, showing Aaranow that to steal the leads is a just punishment for Williamson, whose job is to give the leads out. Williamson, it is noted, has never closed a sale, has never been out there in the field, but is a pawn of the offstage owners, Mitch and Murray.
In a sense, there is something besides Florida real estate being sold: reputation, one’s place on the sales board, even one’s loyalty to the police, are all for sale. At the center of the play is Roma’s and Levene’s friendship, despite their competition for the Cadillac. When they are both winners, when the sales are closing, they share a frenetic energy and understanding of the almost sexual exaltation of success. When Levene defends Roma to Williamson, the audience sees a side of him that is soft and more likeable; however, the...
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