American Buffalo (David Mamet)

I’ve read interviews in which Mamet has said that he hears dialogue as music, and it certainly sings here. To be fair, I’m an easy mark. I go into Mamet’s work expecting to like it and, in all but a few occasions, I have. His trademark staccato shorthand is both evocative and efficient. It speaks to a shared history, especially since Mamet’s characters rarely end his plays with much of a future. His use of parentheses is intriguing here. His footnote says that they indicate a slight shift in the speaker’s perspective, a moment of introspection. Yet another challenge for the actors. If you can, get the edition with Gregory Mosher’s introduction. It tells you a great deal about Mamet’s character and features a very funny anecdote about Dustin Hoffman trying to get Mamet’s lines exactly right.

What’s especially impressive about this play is that it’s essentially about something that does not happen. There are plans. There are changes in plans. But it does not happen. That it’s still so compelling is a testament to Mamet’s genius.

Charles Ellenbogen is the author of the teaching memoir, THIS ISN’T THE MOVIES: 25 YEARS IN THE CLASSROOM, and teaches high school English in Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio with Kirsten, his wife, Zoe, their daughter, Ezra, their son, Lincoln, their dog, and Chocolate Scales, their snake.