The Play

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

Glengarry Glen Ross opens with various members of a real estate sales force talking about their all-consuming passion: selling property to anyone who comes within their orbit. The men are preoccupied with securing the precious “leads,” tips that will put them in contact with potential buyers. Throughout the first act, the men remind one another that whoever rises to the top of the sales chart will win the ultimate prize—a Cadillac. The runner-up will win a set of steak knives; those who fail to produce will simply be fired. All of act 1, consisting of three quick-paced scenes, takes place in a Chinese restaurant in Chicago.

By the time the first act concludes, it is clear that these men are under enormous pressure to sell land—any land, even when its value is dubious—to any client who happens by. Shelley Levene, one of the older members of the sales team, pleads with John Williamson, the office manager, for good (rather than bogus) leads that will allow him to recover from his sales slump. Williamson, wanting to see only one thing—sales—shows little interest in Levene’s desperate pleas. In turn, the salesmen lament how bad business has been and what a cutthroat profession selling real estate has become. All of them appear on edge, but the fiftyish Levene and Dave Moss seem especially driven. All the men are garbed appropriately in business suits, but as the play progresses their appearance degenerates until they are haggard and disheveled.

Since selling has failed him, Moss resorts to crime, scheming to steal the precious leads that Williamson keeps in the safe, ransack the office to make it appear that someone from the outside committed the crime, and then sell the leads to rival brokers. The bigoted Moss tries in act 1, scene 2 to enlist the kindly George Aaronow to be the hit man in the burglary, but Aaronow, who acts as the raissonneur, refuses. Moss then turns to the desperate Levene (the...

(The entire section is 796 words.)