An energetic new revival of American Buffalo opened on Broadway this week to mostly positive reviews, and looks to be a solid-enough production to withstand the recent cancellation cries due to playwright David Mamet’s recent incendiary remarks. Scott Pask’s set and Dede Ayite’s costumes both set the scene perfectly for standout performances from Sam Rockwell and Laurence Fishburne (Darren Criss’s performance by all accounts sadly leaves something to be desired.) Mamet’s once shocking dialogue style has been adopted by so many shows at this point that it now seems expected, even if the remarks out of some of the characters’ mouths prove no less shocking than those made by the playwright himself on TV the other day.
New York Times Review of American Buffalo
In the electric revival that opened on Thursday at Circle in the Square, Teach is embodied with coiled and then terrifyingly uncoiled ferocity by Sam Rockwell, making a great occasion of a great role. When he first skitters into the junk shop run by his poker buddy Don — Laurence Fishburne in a beautifully considered performance — he’s already seething about a petty insult and stalking the joint like a rat-peacock hybrid. By the time he inserts himself into a heist Don is planning with his dim young gofer and protégé, Bobby, played by the angelic if underpowered Darren Criss, he is so hopped up on delusions of profit that he endangers the operation he means to abet. … To see “American Buffalo” now, in a time when everyone seems to talk like Teach, is to be unsurprised — and thus, in a way, more harrowed. What could be more terrible than to realize we’ve acclimated to the ideas the play introduced? Yet this revival, its third on Broadway, is too compelling to permit complacency. Directed with gleeful energy by Neil Pepe, it keeps its attention on the music of the dialogue.
Deadline Review of American Buffalo
Offstage, and sometimes on, David Mamet can be infuriating and exasperating, as anyone who has witnessed his recent nonsensical, offensive media blitz can attest, and then along comes something like American Buffalo – possibly his greatest work, all due apologies to Glengarry Glen Ross – with a cast so in sync with the playwright’s “profane poetry” that for a couple hours it’s not impossible to put aside whatever it is Mamet thinks needs saying on Fox News these days. Superbly performed by Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell and Darren Criss, with director (and longtime Mamet collaborator) Neil Pepe finding every comic beat and threatening glare, American Buffalo – opening tonight on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre – retains a vitality that eluded some recent equally starry revivals of works by Mamet’s bad-boy contemporaries (here’s looking at you, True West).
Time Out Review of American Buffalo
Directed by Neil Pepe with the expert eye for appraisal that the characters lack, this production is vastly superior to American Buffalo’s last Broadway incarnation, which ran briefly back in 2008. The play itself, which marked Mamet’s breakthrough, is as thin as a dime, but it’s got great atmospherics. Scott Pask’s set and Dede Ayite’s costumes plunge us into the shabby world of the action; seated around the thrust stage at Circle in the Square, the audience can almost smell the mix of dirt and desperation. Although not much happens in the play, which is less a thriller than a loiterer, it somehow seems fast-paced, thanks in large part to the three crack performers who bring it to life. They stride the stage with the game confidence of actors who know exactly how to make Mamet’s monte look full.
Variety Review of American Buffalo
Delayed for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and set in an indeterminate urban landscape of the semi-recent past, this “American Buffalo” lacks the granularity and specificity to say much of anything, let alone make a case for its creator’s continued relevance. Here, Sam Rockwell struts into the role of Teach, and he, at least, has a clear idea of his character. … The play jolts alive when Rockwell enters, and the Oscar-winner is practically compelling enough to buoy this staging. He has an able scene partner in Fishburne, who brings a stolidity and authority to the store owner Don… Less effective is Darren Criss…to the degree that the character feels increasingly out of place. And he’s the only one of the three actors whose stream of language, conjuring a world of characters outside the universe of the junk shop, doesn’t quite feel real. One senses, at times, the actor’s own thinking racing ahead of where Bobby is at any given moment. … This production, laden with reputation, demonstrates the way we stage the works of the unquestioned greats, without quite convincing us why Mamet is among their league.