and directing were splendid; Takeshi Kata's junk-filled set was overpoweringly
effective--so why did David Mamet's AMERICAN BUFFALO leave me unmoved?
Major critics like Robert Brustein have called the play a masterpiece,
audiences have cheered it ever since its 1975 debut, yet all I could feel
was boredom and indifference while I sat through its revival at the Geffen.
AMERICAN BUFFALO, as most theatregoers know, concerns three petty criminals--one
of whom, Don (Bill Smitrovich) owns a "resale" shop--who are
planning a big score, the theft of a valuable coin
collection. There is much talk of the heist and what they will do with
the loot, but they aren't capable of pulling it off and end up squabbling
among themselves, angrily and profanely.
The blame game erupts in the violent meltdown of Teach (Ron Eldard, in
the role that made Al Pacino famous), but the bloodbath leads to a kind
of reconcilation between the men, a tentative affirmation of their underworld
code of personal loyalty.
There is humor in Mamet's play, but mostly it depends on semantic highjinks
to get by--street slang, insults, jibes, brief bursts of heartfelt but
banal ideas and opinions. As far as I'm concerned, it was a lot of sound
and fury signifying absolutely nothing.
(Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave, Westwood. 310-208-5454,