One of the benefits of having a preview subscription to the performances at Dramaworks is the ability to see this uniquely focused regional theatre’s productions before reviews appear. Dramaworks dares to produce mostly classics such as the recent Ibsen's A Doll's House, Frayn’s Copenhagen, O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten, and one of my favorites, Ionesco's The Chairs, simply serving up the very best in theatre, in a highly professional manner. One has to thank William Hayes, Dramaworks’ Producing Artistic Director, for his vision and his ability to consistently achieve Dramawork’s mission of being “a professional not-for-profit theatre company that engages and entertains audiences with provocative and timeless productions that personally impact each individual.”
And, indeed, American Buffalo is provocative, a nearly two hour run time going by with such pacing and great acting that the evening seemed to be compressed into mere minutes. David Mamet’s play is presented as he probably intended, with a perfect set design of a 70’s junk shop, the microcosmic universe where three small-time crooks, inherent losers, but ones with the needs of everyman for respect, friendship, even love, bungle their way through a botched job of stealing a coin collection from a “mark.” It is darkly humorous throughout.
Mamet’s staccato dialogue, although stark and profane, is pure poetry. It has a cadence that carries along the characters’ interaction and the plot. This is how people talk, and Donny, Teach, and Bobby become vividly real. An amusing sidebar is the fourth character in the play, Fletch, who we, the audience never see, but we join the characters in the play, questioning what kind of guy he might be, first thinking he’s the “brains” and then thinking he is nothing but a card shark and cheat, but then learning he was assaulted and is in a hospital with a broken jaw (ironic as he can’t speak in the play anyhow). It’s an interesting conceit that Mamet employs to bring us, the audience, further into the heart of the play.
And on a smaller scale the play is emblematic of today’s Madoffian barbaric business world, and the collapse of moral values. A constant refrain of the play is “hey, we’re talk’n business here.”
All in all, this is great theatre and if any review is less than excellent, I will be surprised.