This is a hard review to write. Not because of the production, or in fact, anything to do with the sterling performances now on stage at Angel Island a/k/a Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company; David Mamet’s “American Buffalo”. This is a superb cast well directed by Carlo Lorenzo Garcia that will be the final chapter in a 30 years life of a small theater company that” chugged along like the little train that could”! This company did! They overcame all the obstacles producing some of the finest ensemble work in Chicago (or any other city, for that matter). They have taken risks as to content, language and subject matter, and all the while, they have brought the highest of quality to the audience that came out.
Progress has taken this quaint 48 seat theater upstairs in a building that did not look like it housed a theater, away from the next generation of theater-goers in the area of Sheridan Road and Broadway ( a little north and east of Wrigley and a bit south of Uptown). The corner will be gone and from what I hear condos and new shops will take the space of what was an earthy building with lots of local values (even the Starbucks was unique). Maybe, the developers could take a long hard look at what they are building and find a space that they could provide to this company. Rumors are all over the place and Richard Cotovsky, who may be retiring with the closing of this theater, may just stay on to mentor another young actor with a full beard to keep the Mary-Aarchie company alive. One can hope!
Meanwhile, back to Mamet’s classic story that shows us how “we make our own right and wrong”. It is Chicago, the time, the mid-1970’s. We are in a “junk store” or what might be called an early day resale store. A store filled with other people’s treasures that they no longer care about, or need. Don (played to perfection by Richard Cotovsky) is the shop owner. He is a gruff man who spends most of his time in his shop where he also entertains others from the neighborhood for cards and talk. His young worker/apprentice , Bobby (Rudy Galvan) is learning the ropes from his employer/mentor. One of Don’s steady visitors who also plays in the card games and has from time to time done deeds that are not exactly legal comes by to spend some of his day. He is called Teach (superbly played by Stephen Walker, who hits new heights in this portrayal).
Don has had a customer who has a coin collection and has purchased an American Buffalo nickel to add to the collection. Don decides that this man would never miss the collection and that he could recoup some of his poker losses by pulling off this job. What we witness during these two acts (two hours with a ten minute intermission) is how these almost crooks plan to pull off this would be caper. They are going to bring in another man to help them pull it off, and Bobby is not part of the plan. Everything goes awry, as it would be expected and during the course of one day and night, the tension grows between Don and Teach and then something takes place that gets Bobby into it with them- or does it? Did Bobby have his own plan? The trust and friendship that these men had for each other seems to be gone- but for how long?
The 5 cent piece that starts this whole thing, the “American Buffalo” ends up representing the “American Dream” for each of these men as they pour out their hearst and souls. Mamet’s language is real “street lingo” and sounds like the type of people that they are being played as. Not well educated or read. Street guys trying to survive in a world that seems to have no place or respect for their types. John Holt’s set is amazing. It is a junk shop that is filled with items that must have taken years to amass. There is a scene in Act Two where all of the stuff ends up being upset. This along with the fight sequences (David Woolley certainly outdoes himself on this) that is worth the price of the ticket just to view in person. You will not believe what you see! WOW!!!!
The technical aspects of tis production are much larger than a theater of this size would, under normal circumstances offer, but from day one, Mary-Arrchie has exceeded our expectations. They will be missed! Joe Court(sound), Claire Sangster (lighting), Little Howlin’ Wolf (original music), Michael J. Sanow (technical director), Sarah Jo White (costumes) and Rick Keeley (stage manager)- BRAVO! There is no mention of the prop-master, so I am guessing that the crew pitched in on this one and that they all work on the set up prior to each performance. A lot of work, but makes for a great theatrical experience. One that the audience will recall for years to come and will bring a smile to each audience members face as they fondly recall The Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company.
“American Buffalo” will continue thru April 17th ( EXTENDED) with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 7 p.m.
Tickets are $30 (open seating)/ $20 for students and seniors. This is a theatrical bargain! To reserve your opportunity to watch this wonderful production call 773-871-0442 or visit www.maryarrchie.com
The theater is located at 735 West Sheridan Road ( at Broadway) just east of the Starbucks, 2nd floor. There is metered parking all around the area and some free spots as well. This area is always a problem during the baseball season as Cub fans do park this far from the park- but we are not in that season. We are in the final stretches of the end of an era and a theatrical company that will live on in my heart for eons. Thanks for the memories!
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “American Buffalo”