Given the signature David Mamet profanity exercised in “American Buffalo,” it might seem incongruous to be enamored of the script’s musicality. Yet there’s no better way to interpret the harsh but brilliantly rhythmic quality of the 1975 drama’s dialogue. Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company’s production of “American Buffalo” articulates this quality to a tee, owing to a smart director (Rosina Reynolds) and two actors (Richard Baird and Francis Gercke) who clearly intuit the incendiary tone but also the rat-a-tat vibrations of Mamet’s play.
The tale of a Chicago junk-shop owner (Gercke), his brutally neurotic crony (Baird) and a wrongheaded plan to burgle a house and supposedly turn a con back on a con artist quickly becomes convoluted. But it’s so much fun watching and listening to the actors fret and f-word their way through the proceedings that the quest for a rare and (maybe) expensive coin matters little. What a delicious theatrical departure for the holidays.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 12/4/19.)
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat