Hailed as one of David Mamet’s best plays, “American Buffalo” continues at the Seattle Repertory Theatre as part of the theatre’s 50th anniversary until February 3rd. And what a production it is. The small cast features three fantastic actors, (including the incredible “Gregory” Award-winning Charles Leggett) swallowed up on one huge stage sparring barbs.
As with many Mamet’s plays, the plot is fairly simple. “American Buffalo” takes place in one location during one day of three men’s lives during the 1970’s. Donny Dubrow (Leggett) owns a run-down junk shop. Bobby (Zachary Simonson) plays his young gofer who is a little slow and Walter “Teach” Cole (Hans Altwies) is apparently a friend of the two and a “business associate.” Together, the three conspire to steal a nickel, with the American buffalo on the back, from a coin collector who lives near by. It doesn’t go well and by the end of the play, the stage is destroyed. (Makes one feel bad for the stage crew.)
You don’t see a Mamet play for the story. You see a Mamet play for the characters. “American Buffalo” only has three, but they are larger than life. The cast, who are all better looking in real life, are painfully accurate in their portrayals of these three troubled men.
Directed by Wilson Milam, “American Buffalo” isn’t for everyone. The script is full of vulgarities, but not used for shock value but rather as an extension of the play’s characters. This is how some people really talk. Mamet’s style has been refered to “profane poetry” and even compared to the styles of Shakespheare. The theatre’s blog is even keeping a “curse count.” Not surprisingly, the play is recommended for those over that age of 17.
The story starts out slow and simple but builds tension as it goes on. It is very funny black comedy that is difficult to watch at times.