Sunday, June 22, 2014

American Buffalo: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

You want to reach out and empty the cigarettes out of the ash trays when you see the set for the Aurora Theater production of David Mamet's classic "American Buffalo," directed by Barbara Damashek. The garbage strewn around the room is an apt metaphor for the low-level heist our characters are planning.

Mamet gives us two men (Donnie and Teach) who aspire to be more than they are, and one (Bobby) who would be happy being just like Donny and Teach. James Carpenter's Teach makes us as uncomfortable as Paul Vincent O'Connor's Donny makes us smile. We want to reach out and pat Donny on the head while treating Teach like a loud, rambunctious kindergartner. But these are not children, they are grown men, and the desire of both to cash in on an unexpected score could have disastrous results.

Donny, at least, is doing his best to be good to Bobby (Rafael Jordan), a younger man who appears to be a simpleton. Bobby is just trying to please his two friends, but this doesn't stop Teach from considering him a rival.

American Buffalo opened on Broadway in 1975 and hasn't lost a bit. We still cringe and shift in our seats, laugh where we're supposed to, and by the time the curtain comes down we are already wondering who is going to have to clean all this garbage off the stage. It's a great Buffalo.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "American Buffalo" Four Stars. All three actors are excellent, with a special kudos to James Carpenter who really seems to understand Teach's sublimated desperation. Terrific casting, terrific show.

"American Buffalo"
The Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
Through July 13

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