David Mamet writes American parables in a vernacular whose obscenities detonate like verbal fragmentation bombs. ''Glengarry Glen Ross,'' at the Golden Theatre, is no exception.
Mr. Mamet's latest bitter human comedy plunges the spectator into a sordid world of Chicago real estate salesmanship governed by high pressure and low ethics. The fast-talking con men of this ruthless operation are not merely slick spielers. They are predators preying on susceptible prospects unwary enough to believe that a patch of Florida turf is the paradise the sun shines on.
''Glengarry Glen Ross'' comes to New York in the wake of London accolades and a successful Chicago run. It reflects once more Mr. Mamet's proven ability to transform the foulest kind of gutter language into articulate stage dialogue.
The title refers to dubious real estate developments; the play's heart is not in the highlands. It is part of the irony with which Mr. Mamet expresses his burning indignation over the ruthless ways of salesmen who divide their time between defrauding clients and cutting each other's throats. The author's purported larger target is American spiritual malaise.
A clumsy attempt to steal the ''leads'' essential to the pursuit of sales introduces a certain amount of melodramatic tension into the second of the play's two acts. (It may be recalled that a fumbled robbery was the plot device of ''American Buffalo.'') Otherwise, ''Glengarry Glen Ross'' makes its pitch with sharp characterizations and games of crude conversational one-upmanship.
Certain other of Mr. Mamet's plays that I have seen have invested even their desperate characters with a touch of humanity. Not so ''Glengarry Glen Ross.'' Its protagonists are detestable and despicable. Its one victim is inarticulately pitiful.
The cross section of sleazy wheeler-dealers are well acted by Robert Prosky, James Tolkan, Mike Bussbaum, and Joe Mantegna. J. T. Walsh (the cretinous office manager), Lane Smith (the aforementioned victim), and Jack Wallace (a detective) complete the cast crisply directed by Gregory Mosher. The production was designed by Michael Merritt (settings), Nan Cibula (costumes), and Kevin Rigdon (lighting).