Donny (Tracy Griswold) Bob (Ryan Barry) Teach (Jim Andreassi)
Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal
Raw, brutal and powerfully disturbing…David Mamet’s drama/comedy “American Buffalo” is all that and more. You’ll feel like you’ve gone ten rounds in a boxing ring with the champ and you’ve come out battered and bruised. The intimate space of the Kehler Liddell Gallery in the heart of Westville, at 873 Whalley Avenue, New Haven is a splendid venue for this Elm Shakespeare powder keg of a play.
Elizabeth Bolster has created a wonderfully cluttered junk shop filled with collectibles and trash, guitars, lamps, baseball bats, license plates, paintings on velvet, a multitude of minutia that inhabit Donny’s place of business. Donny, a good guy trying to make a buck, is portrayed by a grisly Tracy Griswold, presiding over his little kingdom, hosting the occasional poker game, giving odd jobs to Bobby who means well but is challenged mentally.
Bobby, captured perfectly by Ryan Barry, wants desperately to be one of the guys and he will lie if it helps him fit into the action. Right now Donny has a plan, not a great plan or even a good one, but he is determined to see it through. A customer came into his shop and cheated him in the purchase of a Buffalo head nickel and now Donny, with a blue book of coin values in hand, is scheming to stage a heist and steal it back, with Bobby as his lookout.
Into the fray comes Teacher, a big kahuna masterfully played by James Andreassi, who knows all the angles and wants to take over as head man. The air fairly crackles with the angst and energy he exudes as he paces and stalks with authority and attitude, both with a capital A. To complete the team, he plans to enlist Fletch but complications arise, tempers flare, tensions explode. The language and action are not for the delicate of heart. Mark Zeisler directs this drama laced with dark, dark comedy with a steady hand on the trigger.
For tickets ($35, students $20), call the Elm Shakespeare at 203-393-1436 or online at www.elmshakespeare.org. Performances are May 17 to 20, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. On Friday, May 18, there is a Special Benefit with wine and hors d'oeuvres at 6:30 p.m. followed by the performance at 8 p.m. Watch for announcements for their summer offering of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at 8 p.m. August 16-19, 21-26 and August 28-September 2 in Edgerton Park in New Haven. A special gala will be held Thursday, August 30 from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
If you’ve ever considered a life of crime, take a cautionary tale from what Donny, Bobby and Teacher do and do just the opposite.