is there anything better than watching a group of desperately impatient men strut, seethe, and flaunt their testosterone like a well-worn suit? well...i can think of a few things but that will detract from the downright explosiveness of watching this theater season's sufficiently Man-ly slate of plays.
a stage full of un-naked men won't necessarily appeal to the post-feminist female audience...but the revival of two classic plays-- first, Twelve Angry Men and most recently, Glengarry Glen Ross, reminds me of why live theater is one of the most thoroughly satisfying cultural experiences out there. native new yorkers who don't take advantage of it, shame on you cuz you're missing out. because the men on the stage all give knockout performances--seamlessly channelling their characters, moving stories along by their words only--there are no plot gimmicks or silly special effects. just words. and sometimes, a lot of yelling and cursing.
up to bat first this 2005 theater season was Twelve Angry Men, which recently (and sadly) closed here in NYC. luckily, i caught it a few months ago with discount tix from work, which promised the Best Theater Experience Ever. melodrama aside, this tagline would not disappoint. the aforementioned cast of twelve interrogate, demean, judge, and eventually, reconstruct each other's moral compass as they attempt to reach a decision on a what seemed to be an open-and-shut murder case. but for one scene played during my freshman year management class (it was suppose to be an example of working in teams--ha!), i had never seen the original 1957 film. so the drama played out a fresh revelation of each piece of evidence-- exposing half-truths along with each man's agenda, and ultimately, doubts. the story, though half a century old, still seems relevant and i walked away from the show--which ran at a slim 90 minutes with no intermission-- unnerved by the play's moral lesson and grateful for the chance to witness such an amazing ensemble cast. each of the twelve actors gave astounding visceral performances--not one a household name, although all were theater veterans. however, other theater geeks may recognize Boyd Gaines-- who broke hearts and inspired dorky white guys everywhere to take a chance and dance-- in Susan Stroman's Contact a few years ago. his interpretation of the Juror who is the first to question everything, is a highlight.
Glengarry Glen Ross, which opened to rave reviews in early May, may contain a cast half its size, but outshines Twelve when it comes to star power. Alan Alda, Liev Schreiber, Gordon Clapp, and Jeffrey Tambor are all a part of this stellar cast of sleezy, verbally abusive set of real-estate salesmen who would do anything--lie, cheat, steal-- to "get the premium leads." i just came back from seeing the show and am still wowed over by its quick-paced abrasive dialogue and dumpy, but effective staging. unfortunately for me, this time i had seen the movie before (again, back in college...do all business courses reference movies as an easy way out?) so the only surprise was the play's duration-- clocking in at roughly 90 minutes. this story also has significant moral undertones-- but unlike Twelve, it isn't the lesson that resonates so much as the stunning performances of the leads-- i will put money on either Schreiber or Alda winning a Tony this weekend. both playing against type-- Schreiber as a slick, arrogant asshole of a sales guy on a hot streak; Alda completely decimating the good guy routine he's famous for, is Schreiber's perfect foil playing the down-on-his luck loser trying to find a way--any way-- to get back in the game.
in terms of which show is better?-- its a draw. Twelve had more emotional impact, as months later, i still recall its affecting resolution. but both made me remember why i love living in nyc-- access to such near-perfect performances is something we don't all get to appreciate, much less experience. hopefully, next season, the women will get their turn to wow audiences over.