note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Richard Pacheco
David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” is an American classic, both praised and condemned when it first appeared. What was undeniably held by both admirers and detractors was the raw emotion and raw language that permeated the play with such vigor and conviction as well as bluntness. That has not faded, at least in this production at the Gamm. It is a play about crude characters with crude language and no holds barred.
Donny owns the ratty junk store where the play occurs. It is cluttered and cramped, overflowing with odds and ends that infiltrate everything. It all begins after Donny sells a buffalo nickel to a customer for $90 but later suspects it is worth considerably more. He and his go for Bobby plan to steal it back. Bobby keeps watch over the house and reports the guy has left for the weekend with a suitcase. Then Donny’s buddy Teach comes over and convinces Donny to dump Bobby, who is not the brightest bulb, and use him in the robbery instead. Teach is even more ambitious wants to rip off the whole collection. Donny insists his poker buddy Fletcher be brought in to the caper. The second act propels this all forward with unexpected consequences.
Trinity Rep’s Fred Sullivan Jr. as Donny delivers a winning performance, a combination of boisterous bluster and sincere heart. It is a poised, controlled performance that is rich and winning. He makes a wining addition to the ensemble with finesse and flair. Donny is a kind of dreamer or sorts in his junk shop, hoping for bigger and beter things but no exactly having the abilities to follow it through.
It is the Mamet dialogue that sets the tone and character of this play. The banter between Teach and Donny is at times like vaudeville comedy with its sass and impeccable timing. It is often brutal and relentless with a sharp edge and refuses to yield.
Trinity Rep Director Tyler Dobrowsky keeps the energy fast and furious rapidly moving in on the target with raw abundance. Any difficulties in the production come for the play’s shorting comings in that there are no deep questions here norac any real conclusion or resolution to it all. The Patrick Lynch set with its two floors of tottering teetering precarious junk is wonderful and rich and sheer delight.
This is a vivid production that is rich with fine perforamcnes.