WINDY CITY TIMES
||THEATER REVIEW American Buffalo
by Catey Sullivan
This article shared 2860 times since Wed Dec 23, 2009
Playwright: David Mamet . At: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted . Phone: 312-335-1650; $20-$77
Runs through: Feb. 7
The play that put David Mamet on the map is a thing of pure testosterone. It's a ( damaged ) man's world inside Donny's Chicago junkshop, a place of toxic father figures and lost boys, all hanging on by their fingernails to the crumbling edges of the cracks in the American dream. Sooner or later, Teach ( Tracy Letts ) , Donny ( Frances Guinan ) and young Bob ( Patrick Andrews ) will lose their tentative grip and spiral into the grimy abyss where the marginal go to be forgotten. But for the 105 rapid-fire minutes of American Buffalo, this trio is in fighting form, rebels with unachievable, self-defeating causes.
Directed to ballsy perfection by Amy Morton, American Buffalo is an unmitigated tragedy of violence, despair and some seriously world-class misogyny ( "…from the mouth of the Southern bulldyke asshole ingrate of a vicious nowhere cunt can this trash come" ) . It is also undeniably hilarious.
Mamet doesn't really tell a story herethe plot sputters around a crime that never occurs. Instead, American Buffalo is a long, hard look at three guys, all deeply etched and intensely memorable. Each is someone you knowor know of. Or once knew but cut off all contact with because they were such irredeemable assholes.
Within Donny's Chicago junk shop ( The overwhelming grime and clutter of Kevin Depinet's evokes a claustrophobic tomb ) elliptical dialogue unspools in Mamet's signature sentence fragments and vague allusions. The piece opens with Donny lecturing his young protégé Bobby on the ways of friendship and business. It's clear that there's something off about the kid: He's unnaturally thin and grungy like someone who hasn't had access to plumbing in weeks. He's also tellingly bleary-eyed in a permanent way, bloodshot beyond the parameters of a mere weekend bender. Andrews is remarkable, so authentically damaged that you'd swear he was barely an hour off the nod, trying to haul himself out of a smack hangover so potent that putting two coherent words together is as difficult as trying to scream yourself awake from a nightmare. Compare Andrews here with his work as the Emcee in Drury Lane Oak Brook's Cabaret earlier this year, and it's apparent that he's an actor of stunning range. So, of course, is Guinan, who instills Mamet's harsh, cryptic dialogue with the exhausted, Sisyphean humanity of a decent man in an environment that eats decency for breakfast.
And then there's Letts, looking like a low-rent porn star in Teach's tight pants, luridly patterned shirt and cheesy aviator shades. His is one of the best entrances on a stage this year, an opening volley of paranoid, ranting rage that is as disturbing as it is godawful funny. He seems born to spit out Mamet-speak, and does so here to noxiously pitch-perfect effect.
This article shared 2860 times since Wed Dec 23, 2009
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