American Buffalo - The Best Laid Schemes

By Bob and Karen Isaacs

David Mamet’s comic masterpiece is being given a raucous presentation at Hartford’s TheatreWorks through October 25.

Simply put, small-time crooks plot to steal a priceless coin collection. Their plotting and their interactions are hilarious as is the wonderful resale shop setting created by Adrian W.  Jones from which their planning begins.

The resale shop is run by Donny Dubrow, clearly depicted by the talented John Ahlin, who happens to stumble upon a man who pays him $50 for a Buffalo Nickel that he has displayed.  Realizing that the man is a coin collector and that he might have in his possession other valuable coins, Donny attempts to figure out how he can get his hands on those coins.

To do this he recruits Bobby, a young and dull-witted individual who one feels has taken too many drugs and is useful only to run errands and provide information about things he has observed.  Zachary Spicer captures the role perfectly especially after he realizes later on that he has been cut out of the robbery despite his efforts.

The chief reason he is cut out is because Walter Cole, a.k.a. Teach, convinces Donny that Bobby is not up to the task.  Andrew Benator provides the sinister aspect in the play, constantly threatening violence although many of his actions and observations are gist for the comic mill.

How does the Burns line go: “The best laid schemes of mice and men/ Gang aft agley” that is, often go wrong.  In this case the scheme is so undercut by the bad planning, general stupidity, and the male egos that the whole thing ends in chaos with the resale shop being trashed.

Part of the success of American Buffalo is the realistic language used by the actors as they communicate their thinking and their opinions.  If you are linguistically sensitive you can have someone cover your ears as the language flows but you will probably miss about half the dialogue in the play.  The fact is that the language as Mamet created is perfectly suited to the characters and situations. There is no gratuitous obscenity; it is part and parcel of the play and the characters.

 Under the direction of TheatreWorks artistic director Steve Campo the play moves quickly, the dialogue flows easily and the movements of the would-be masterminds are clearly leading to the disastrous ending and all of it laughter-producing. Campo’s direction is not only followed but embellished by his talented trio of performers.

You will certainly want to get up to Hartford TheatreWorks and see this delightful work.

Incidentally, the entire contents of Don’s Resale Shop will be auctioned off on October 25 following the last performance of the play.  To reserve your seats call 860-527-7838. Hartford TheatreWorks claims that people should not be fooled by the junk. “An array of highly desirable items will be secretly planted on the set including art, jewelry, and historic items from past TheaterWorks productions.”

American Buffalo is at Hartford TheatreWorks, 233 Pearl St., through Oct. 25. For tickets and information call 860-527-7838

This review appeared in Shore Publications.

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