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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

In the final show at its versatile Clay Terrace venue (more on that later), CCP offers up David Mamet’s vividly dark and comic depiction of small-time crooks in big city USA, American Buffalo. Lori Raffel ends her short directing hiatus by leading an all-star cast consisting of three award-winning actors in this impressive production.

The 90 minute play tells the tale of three low-end criminals: Donny Dubrow, the owner of a run-down Chicago inner city junk shop – played by Larry Adams; his dim-witted gofer, Bobby, offered by Daniel Shock; and their quick-tempered, cocky friend and colleague, Teach, who is brought to life by Earl Campbell. These characters work through themes of friendship, loyalty and especially business and opportunity, although they are, in fact, failures at these four aspects of successful living.

The story centers around a buffalo nickel, purchased from the store by a customer for an impressive sum, which sets off the idea in Don’s mind that this person has a great knowledge of coins, has rooked him by paying much less than the coin is worth, and must be a collector holding a set of very valuable coins. So, in the name of “business”, he plans a heist of the man’s property, using Bobby as his operator. When Teach learns of the plot, he sees a lucrative opportunity for himself and insists that Don should forget about using Bobby for the job, and instead employ himself, as he is obviously far more qualified and experienced. However, Don worries at first that this will hurt Bobby, whom he has taken under his wing – providing fatherly advice about life and how to live it correctly. Eventually, Don agrees that Teach would be better for the job, but only if their poker-buddy, Fletcher is also involved – an idea that really sets off the tempestuous Teach, who accuses Fletcher of being a card cheat and unreliable. These conflicts provide a view of all three men’s ineptness in all the theme areas.

Ms. Raffel expertly directs with a razor sharp touch, with special attention to pacing and tempo – matching Mamet’s quick and harsh wordings. Language is a huge part of the play’s impact and intentions, by providing a graphic cloak showing us who the characters are, as well as revealing their holdings and hubris, their frailties and protections. Vulgarities abound as the men, especially Teach and Don, use the cover of foul language to deal with their lives’ messes and upsets. Friends are diminished with curses and oaths. Loyalties are expressed with the same coarse phraseology. The players give their characters this phony bravado, so much a part of their being, without batting an eye.

Indeed, the actors work seamlessly together, but this is a familiar trio. Ten years ago, almost to the day, they appeared together on CCP’s Studio 15 stage in a very well-received production of ART by Yasmina Reza. (Their director for that production was yours truly.)

Adams’ Don is torn between successfully advancing his business, albeit through larceny, and treating poor dim-witted Bobby with a measure of respect that the poor guy is not very used to. The conflict is well-conveyed as Adams steps through ring upon ring of frustration. Bobby is a sympathetic character, as adroitly rendered by Shock, always trying to do the right thing, but never sure what the right thing is. Teach is a hair-triggered fury in the hands of Campbell. His quick-paced outlay of the man’s self-centered nature, often with comic nonsensical results, is a strong feature of the show.

cast

from left: Earl Campbell (Teach), Larry Adams (Don), and Daniel Shock (Bobby) reunite in    David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” at CCP.

Although American Buffalo is being offered as a special addition to the CCP season, it holds a significant place in the theatre group’s history. It will be the final show to be done at the Clay Terrace venue which the group has used for the past 8+ years. A search is on for a new home and arrangements have been made so that the next show scheduled – Ragtime – will be presented in the auditorium at the Ivy Tech campus in Noblesville.

American-buffalo

Bottomline: This event was a tremendous treat for me on a number of levels: first of all, it was a remarkable production of one of Mamet’s most popular plays; secondly, I was able to see a trio of fine actors, whom I have such a great personal affinity for, splendidly reunited on stage; thirdly, it was wonderful to welcome Lori Raffel back to the fold, as she is one of the most outstanding directors we have in our community; and finally, a bittersweet moment, saying goodbye to a theatre venue which has provided me with many wonderful memories, both as an audience member and as a director.

Carmel Community Player’s American Buffalo continues at their Clay Terrace venue through March 4th. Coarse language should be noted. To learn information about times and dates, visit their website: http://www.carmelplayers.org or call 317.815.9387.

  • – Title banner and cast photo provided by Carmel Community Players

 

 

 

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