“American Buffalo” Rips Across The STLAS Stage With Classic Mamet Dialogue

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Leo Ramsey, William Roth and Peter Mayer in the STLAS production of “American Buffalo.” Photo: John Lamb

It’s not just the cursing, it’s the lyrical beauty of the realistic language that helped win Mamet the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award in 1977 for “American Buffalo.” As St. Louis Actors’ Studio shows in their latest offering- it hasn’t lost a bit of that gritty, hard hitting dramatic impact. Led by a strong cast and excellent direction, it’s a must see.

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William Roth as Teach drives home a point to Peter Mayer as Donny in “American Buffalo” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo: John Lamb

Donny Dubrow’s cluttered Resale Shop is the setting as Donny has taken Bobby under his wing and is trying to keep the slow-witted young man on the right track- according to the philosophy of Donny. He’s concerned about his eating habits while Donny munches on junk food himself as he cooks up a scheme to regain an American Buffalo nickel that he feels he sold too cheap to a wealthy coin collector. The plan is to break into the guy’s house and steal all the coins. Joining them in the caper will be Donny’s good friend Walter- known as “Teach.”

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William Roth looks on as Peter Mayer unsuccessfully tries to contact their missing accomplice in “American Buffalo” at STLAS. Photo: John Lamb

Peter Mayer’s Donny is an impatient and hardened by life man who, despite his nefarious ways shows a soft side when it comes to protecting young Bobby. Teach seems to tolerate Bobby while “playing nice,” mostly to appease Donny. He doesn’t like the idea of giving the break in job to Bobby since he’s sure he will screw things up so he insists on bringing in a third party. This leads to bad feelings all the way around which leads to the violent but inevitable closing to “American Buffalo” which leaves us with mixed emotions.

STLAS Artistic Director William Roth handles the role of Teach with mild exasperation prone to bursts of ¬†explosive behavior. He and Mayer play off each other with the skill of dueling surgeons- slicing each other up with the precision of enemies who are closest friends. Leo Ramsey, who we’ve seen on other stages in town, uses this as his break-out performance. He brings a heart-breaking pathos to the role of Bobby that makes you want to cry, cringe and root him on all in the course of this short, two-act drama.

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William Roth and Peter Mayer discuss the heist in Mamet’s “American Buffalo” at St. Louis Actors’ Studio. Photo: John Lamb

Who better to guide us through this gritty Mamet classic than director John Contini? As a skilled actor and director, he manages to squeeze every ounce of passion from this hard boiled script. It’s sometimes hard to watch as the characters almost seem determined to make their lives more miserable than they already are, but it’s a brilliant performance by all three that is made even better by Mr. Contini’s direction.

Helping to add to the power of the production is a beautifully cluttered set by Christie Johnston. Looking like an indoor yard sale- every large, outdated piece and every small trinket tells a story as the floor, walls and ceiling are filled with each odd piece. Dalton Robison’s lights add to the story and Carla Landis Evans has provided the perfect costume design including the gold lame shoes and shirt worn by Teach in the first act.

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William Roth talks to Leo Ramsey as Peter Mayer looks on in the STLAS production of “American Buffalo.” Photo: John Lamb

There’s no denying that David Mamet’s play is still powerful to today’s audiences. And St. Louis Actors’ Studio has given us a definitive production that brings every nuance to the typical Mamet profanity laden dialogue that almost overwhelms as it brings a harsh reality to the story of the seamier side of these low life characters. “American Buffalo” plays at STLAS through December 18th.

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One Response to ““American Buffalo” Rips Across The STLAS Stage With Classic Mamet Dialogue”

  1. Skylar Says:

    I just started a blog where I want to talk about theatre, tips, and my experiences, so this was very interesting to me!

    https://skylararyn.wordpress.com/

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