By JOAN TADDIE
Don’s Resale Shop is stuffed aimlessly with discarded junk of little value. Pieces of American culture from the past hang precariously on the walls and are piled on every available metal shelf and empty space on the floor. It is in this claustrophobic setting that we are introduced to the three struggling characters led astray by failing to achieve the American Dream in David Mamet’s play, “American Buffalo,” currently running through November 20th at The Theater on the Edge in Orlando.
Donny Dubrow, the owner of the junk shop, sells a rare buffalo nickel to a wealthy customer and believes the customer tricked him into selling the coin for less than it is worth. Donny comes up with a plan to get even with the customer by robbing him and getting the nickel back along with additional coins from the man’s collection.
The play begins with Donny demanding an apology from Bobby — he left the house instead of doing the required stake out. Bobby is a slow-witted, young man with a drug problem. He has become dependent on Donny who treats him like a surrogate son. Walter “Teach” Cole comes to the shop, hears about the “business” plan and manipulates Donny to eliminate Bobby from the planned robbery because of his inexperience. Teach wants Donny to use him instead. Donny agrees, and disastrous results ensue.
This is a stunning production. The three actors, all Meisner-trained, are so compelling in their characterizations; it’s as if you are watching a master class in acting.Allan Whitehead embraces the role of Donny Dubrow. Donny may be involved many times with illegal dealings, but he has a good heart and supports his friends financially and emotionally. He also is a planner, and we can see the concentration on his face when he is focusing on his next move. Donny does a lot of listening, and he conveys what he is thinking by merely capturing the eyes of the other character. An excellent example of this acting prowess is when the audience sees Donny’s face as he tries to rationalize the guilt he feels for betraying Bobby. This is a powerful moment for Donny and a triumph for Mr. Whitehead, the actor.
It is a challenge working with limited lines that often consist of one word: “Nothing,” “Great,” “No.” But Zack Roundy’s superb interpretation and delivery of Bobby’s lines show this talented actor’s physical and mental commitment to communicate Bobby’s thoughts and reactions primarily through non-verbal means. An exceptional example of Mr. Roundy’s focus and commitment to a menacing encounter with Teach. Nothing needs to be said. His body tells the whole story.The entrance of Teach shifts the entire tone of the production. Played brilliantly by Marco DiGeorge, Teach this character bursts through the door explosively in the middle of a discussion between Donny and Bobby about healthy food and drops five F-bombs in a row with Ruthie’s name attached to them. With his entrance, Teach aggressively dominates the scene dialogue and pulls focus with his hip 70’s appearance — brown leather jacket, a shiny brown print shirt, gold necklace, long black hair parted in the middle and a moustache hanging down past the corners of his mouth. Teach rarely stops talking and never stops moving, even if it is his foot tapping, his head shaking, or his fingertips tapping his thumbs. Mr. DiGeorge skillfully allows Teach to show his dislike for Bobby and how it leads to violence. “We all live like cavemen!” he yells.
“American Buffalo” was awarded the Best Play of 1977 by the New York Drama Critics Circle. Director Pam Harbaugh finds just the right layers of this complex drama to peel back and release her actors into the stratosphere. Although almost all the action in this play takes place off stage, Ms. Harbaugh deftly designs just the right blocking to give the actors opportunities for intense interactions leading to a well played explosive ending trapping characters in a small space.Kudos to Artistic Designer, Samantha DiGeorge for attention to detail in her amazing set design. Thom Restivo’s sound design provides just the right touch to define the city outside of the junk shop; and the jazz bookending the acts helps establish the time and the mood.
This production should have a longer run. Congratulations to everyone involved in Theater on the Edge.
This review was edited by CATHY MATHIAS, photos by Monica Mulder
SIDE O’ GRITS: “America Buffalo” runs through Nov. 20 at Theater on the Edge, 5542 Hansel Ave., Orlando. Tickets are $24 with discounts for students. Seating very limited. Purchase tickets by clicking here. Call 407-309-0106 or visit TheaterOnTheEdge.org.