Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Five Cents On American Buffalo

My Five Cents On American Buffalo

Yesterday, I took note of the regularity with which David Mamet plays have been mounted on Broadway over the past five years. Add to that his upcoming Race and you have a total of six shows, old and new, that will have been staged on the Main Stem during that time.

Easily the least successful of the first five was the 2008 revival of American Buffalo, which closed last November 24 after only eight regular performances. And it wasn't for lack of star power, either. With Robert Falls at the helm, that "deflated" incarnation featured John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment. Unfortunately for the production, reviews ran from mixed to complete pans.

Without looking backwards, Chicago's Steppenwolf is seeking to salvage this play's reputation by returning it to the Windy City where it was first produced 34 years ago by the venerable Goodman Theatre.

Proving that she's really running things now is estimable actress, director and Steppenwolf Ensemble member Amy Morton. While New York audiences may only know her for her dramatic chops, she's a force at the helm as well, as she demonstrated again just a year ago in directing Steppenwolf's acclaimed production of Conor McPherson's Dublin Carol.

Equally impressive is her cast, which includes Tracy Letts and Francis Guinan, along with an accomplished young actor named Patrick Andrews.

This marks Tracy Letts' return to the boards after a two and a half year absence during which a little show called August: Osage County rocked the theatre establishment and cemented his reputation as a powerful playwright. I would argue that to fully appreciate Letts, you must witness his astounding talent on-stage as well as off. He's that good.

Then there's Fran Guinan, who is without a doubt, one of the most gifted contemporary actors in Chicago or anywhere else. While Broadway audiences will fondly recall his Charlie Aiken as the only August: Osage County character displaying any real heart, Chicago audiences have come to revere him for his breathtaking versatility in playing everyone from Colonel Sanders to Johnny Walker to Arthur Conan Doyle.

The enormous range and capabilities of the Morton/Letts/Guinan triumvirate are making this American Buffalo the one show of the year I've been waiting for most. Something tells me that it will definitely be well worth the coin.

American Buffalo begins previews at Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theatre on December 3 and opens December 13. I'll be there for its opening and will have a full report shortly thereafter.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 19 November, 2009, Blogger Bob said...

I'll see you at the opening on Dec 12! No?

At 19 November, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Yay! You're going?!


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