Quill Theatre’s ‘American Buffalo’ raises questions and intrigues audiences
Quill Theatre opened their first main stage season under the new name in percussive fashion with playwright David Mamet’s American Buffalo.
The action starts from the opening line and doesn’t stop until the final gripping scene. Packed with language – both in the sense of profanity and intelligent dialogue – American Buffalo is like a drum line of words providing an unending and hypnotic rhythm that swells to a heart-stopping finale.
Promising “Theatre worth talking about,” Quill transforms TheatreLAB’s The Basement stage into Don’s Resale Shop, one of the best sets (a recreated junk shop complete with actual junk items for sale) I’ve seen in a long time and a show that provides plenty to ruminate on.
Alan Sadler as Donny, Jeffrey Schmidt as Teach, and Jesse Mattes as Bobby provided individual tour de force performances that came together into brilliant ensemble acting. Their top-notch work should have theatre goers gushing for some time to come.
And then there’s Mamet’s provocative script itself. American Buffalo had me scratching my head and searching for a Cliff Notes version of what it means.
I think I know what it’s about, but Mamet is so smart that I’m certain I’ve missed something. And there again, Quill fulfills its promise as they “revel in glorious words, transforming words, words with a million meanings and the invincible power to change us forever.”
And days later, my theatre companion and I are still talking about the play’s meaning.
Donny, the proprietor of the junk shop has been duped by a customer into selling a buffalo nickel for considerably less than it is likely worth. He and his affable sidekick, Bobby, hatch a plan to steal the coin back. Teach, Donny’s poker buddy convinces Donny that Bobby is too inexperienced and unreliable for the job and inserts himself into the shaky plan.
Miscommunication, misunderstanding, lies and half-truths make for a second act that sees the plan fall part before their eyes with a climax and denouement that leaves the audience reeling.
A friend described Mamet’s work as “grown men yelling at each other and insulting each others’ manhood.”
There was a lot of that. But also so much more.
American Buffalo is a sometimes vulgar and biting commentary on the nature of friendship and loyalty versus business.
Bravo to Quill Theatre for a stellar first offering. The play runs through November 1st and is well worth seeing. It’ll have you talking long after the curtain call.
Head on over to the Quill Theatre’s website for tickets
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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