Mary Arrchie Theatre Company is ending its run after 30 years of theatrical excellence in its tiny space at Angel Island with David Mamet’s “American Buffalo”. The classic play gets high marks by a cast that includes company founder Richard Cotovsky (Don), Rudy Galvan (Bobby) and Stephen Walker (Teach), and directed by Carlos Lorenzo Garcia.
One of Mamet’s more notable plays, “American Buffalo” takes place in Don’s Resale Shop in Chicago during 1975. Don undersold a buffalo nickel to a coin collector and plots with his pal Bobby to steal it back. Teach stops in the shop and tells Don he’ll do the job himself. He suggests that he will not only steal the nickel but the entire coin collection as well.
Tensions between the three arise as the time for the caper approaches. Teach pulls out a gun and checks its readiness for the job. Don disapproves of the weapon feeling it’s not necessary. Tempers flare and thus begins the unraveling of the shaky and poorly thought-out burglary.
The characters are not likeable but beg for sympathy as each wallows in confusion and self pity. Mamet’s rough and vulgar language is never profane despite the level of the perpetrators grit and lack of education. It’s a fourth character that accentuates the backdrop of used and tarnished objects filling the shelves of Don’s rundown resale shop.
Cotovsky’s Don is superbly restrained as he attempts to compromise the conflict between the overbearing Teach, marvelously delivered by Walker’s powerful stage presence, and the meek Bobby, well played by Galvan.
The cast makes good use of Mamet’s machine gun dialog. Don tries to appeal for sanity while the hapless Bobby crumbles at the hands of the stronger Teach who himself eventually deteriorates into a ball of cowardice.
It’s a well acted and a fitting final production for this courageous theatre company on Sheridan Road, a part of which near Angel Island has been named Honorary Richard Cotovsky Way. Give this one three stars and one more for good measure as a long standing and excellent storefront theatre.
“American Buffalo” continues at Mary Arrchie, 735 W. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, through March 6, 2016. For tickets and information, call (773) 871-0442 or visit the web site at www.maryarrchie.com.
On Stage notes: When Mary Arrchie Theatre first announced the production of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo”, the licensing agent Samuel French Ltd., would not release the rights for the production in the event that a larger or touring company wished to produce the well known play. This is not uncommon for major works in major markets like Chicago. Approval was given but Mary Arrchie would be allowed limited advertising and no reviews which would impact adversely the company and the play’s ticket sales.
However an appeal was made to Mamet by someone who shall remain anonymous. There are suspensions that it was actor and author Tracy Letts who played Teach in the Steppenwolf production in 2009. Letts is firmly loyal to the local theatre scene. Be that as it may, the production commenced and reviews were permitted.