Putting behind the disconcerting comments that Mamet is seemingly now making, appearing recently on Fox News, of all places, claiming that teachers are “inclined” to pedophilia (What the F*ck?), as he has, most disturbingly, swung more right -wing as of late, I tried my best to take in the third Broadway revival of his stellar play, American Buffalo with an open mind to the well-known piece of theatrical art presented here at Circle in the Square. Third time’s not exactly the charm here though, even though the cast delivers and the piece is presented as if it is worthy of an authentic American masterpiece.
The history of this 1975 play is legendary, having first premiered in a showcase production in Chicago, and two more showcases before it opened on Broadway in 1977 featuring Robert Duvall in the role of Teach, Kenneth McMillan as junk shop owner, Donny, and John Savage as Donny’s young simple-minded employee, Bobby. Numerous revivals have since graced the Broadway stage, with one starring Al Pacino as Teach. Pacino’s production first played Off-Broadway at the Circle in the Square (Downtown) in 1981 before opening at the Booth Theater in 1983 to numerous Tony Award nominations. William H. Macy played Teach in a Donmarproduction that transferred to the Atlantic Theater in 2000, and Cedric the Entertainer, Haley Joel Osment, and John Leguizamo starred in a second Broadway revival that infamously closed after only eight performances. I’d love to know what happened there.
Yet, it’s no surprise that so many great actors have wanted to dig into these three unique parts, especially the iconic role of Teach, now being played by one of my all-time favorites, Academy Award winner Sam Rockwell (“Fosse/Verdon”; Broadway’s Fool for Love). It’s a wonderfully complex part that twists and turns his way around the cluttered junk shop owned by Don, currently played strongly by the wonderful Tony Award winner Laurence Fishburne (Broadway’s Two Trains Running), with the talented Emmy winner Darren Criss (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace”; Hedwig) rounding out the cast. The three circulate around one another like game pieces, feeding on each other’s energy on a cluttered and overly designed space by Scott Pask (Broadway’s The Prom) that is never fully utilized to its full potential. The aisles of junk become an obstacle, not just for many of the audience members trying in vain to get a clear unobstructed view, but for the actors themselves consciously working their hardest to spread their wings in this limited environment.