Mamet's `American Buffalo' on stage at Theatre Outback

May 27, 1999|By Jill Hudson Neal

Playwright David Mamet's award-winning dark comedy "American Buffalo" will make its first appearance at Howard Community College's Theatre Outback tomorrow and will run through June 13.

The angry and harrowing play, which won the Drama Critics Circle Award for best American play and the Obie Award in 1977, put Mamet on the cultural and theatrical map.

The story of the greedy pawnshop owner Donny, a loser ex-convict named Teach and a naive boy called Bobby will be performed on the college's new, outdoor Dreier Stage. Three professional actors -- Mark Bernier of Columbia, Anthony Scimonelli of Ellicott City and Tony Colavito of Baltimore -- play the trio who plot to steal an antique buffalo nickel.

Sue Kramer, director of the production and head of HCC's student theater, worked with Colavito (Teach) as assistant director on a 1983 production of the play at Fells Point Theatre in Baltimore.

Colavito directed that production and played Bobby, the clueless kid who hangs around the pawnshop in which all the action takes place.

Now, Kramer and Colavito team up again to bring Mamet's densely comic and explosive material to the stage.

"I've always loved the poetry of the piece, and I love the way Mamet captures dialogue," Kramer said. "It's very unusual. `American Buffalo' is not like your everyday contemporary piece. This is Mamet, really, at his best.

"The play is mainly about truth and what people can do to one another," she added. "It's an excellent study in relationships and how we treat one another."

During rehearsals, Kramer has encouraged the 20 HCC students serving as the show's technical staff to pay close attention to the creative process among the actors.

"I usually keep a closed-door policy, but I really wanted the kids to see how a professional production works," she said.

The cast and crew have been rehearsing the three-man play for a month.

Scimonelli, who plays Bobby, is an HCC graduate who has appeared in alumni productions of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Of Mice and Men" and "Play It Again, Sam."

Scimonelli, 23, says the cast has been studying hard to perfect Mamet's notoriously difficult and lightning-quick dialogue.

"It's funny, most plays are written in a way that we don't normally speak, which actually makes it kind of easy to memorize," said Scimonelli, a Towson University student.

Most dramatic dialogue is "written like a poem. But when it's written the way people talk, it's hard. The timing is extremely crucial in this play," he added.

This fall, the Performing Arts Group will stage a production of Thornton Wilder's classic comedy "You Can't Take it With You."

Pub Date: 5/27/99

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