Review Round Up: American Buffalo, Circle on the Square Theatre

We take a look at what is being said about the Broadway revival of David Mamet’s play.

The Guardian: ** “There is pleasure, of course, in Fishburne and Rockwell’s performances. As Donny, Fishburne keeps his voice low, his eyes hooded, his physicality contained until it isn’t. Fishburne’s natural clout lends Donny gravity; his sensitivity to Mamet’s rough jazz offers the character a kind of grace.”

Variety: “This “American Buffalo” is a closed circuit, too reverent by half of its source material; its second act derives energy from Rockwell and a certain sort of decency from Fishburne, but it also grinds on toward a conclusion that feels, by the time it arrives, overdue. There’s little room on this jam-packed stage for the dazzle of curiosity.”

Entertainment Weekly: “In this era, the attraction offered by reviving American Buffalo is not just the dialogue, but getting to see these actors deliver it. Rockwell and Fishburne are definitely worth the price of admission.”

Time Out: **** “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.”

New York “I don’t begrudge anyone from wanting to see these actors in person, all of whom have given undeniably terrific performances in the past, each of whom is a familiar screen star. But the challenge of the roles in “American Buffalo” is for the actors to master the timing of the street poetry in such a way that their performances are thrilling while at the same time their characters are  believable as human beings. And only one of the three came close to doing all that for me: Sam Rockwell.”

NY Post: “Their dance of “f – – k”s and “c – – t”s and hurled objects (the front row is practically a splash zone) is muscularly choreographed by director Neil Pepe. He understands Mamet well, and knows “American Buffalo” is just three schlubs shootin’ the s – – t … and maybe each other.”

Hollywood Reporter: “Much of the play, especially the language, is dated and therefore cringe-inducing. But the system in which the characters live, where loyalty and friendship aren’t honored, doesn’t feel as discordant with our times. They act out, betray each other and erode whatever trust they started out with because the goal is to get rich or at least comfortable.”

Talkin’ Broadway: “But whatever personal connection there might be between playwright and play, it is Sam Rockwell who gloriously occupies that role and makes this production of American Buffalo a most memorable theatrical experience.”

Deadline: “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).”

Broadway News: “But polished up here by performances from its marquee stars, particularly Sam Rockwell, and through captivating feats of design from its creative team, the revival at Circle in the Square will at least invite those who are curious to linger and turn it over. Whether they buy it will depend on their investment in shopworn fables of American greed, and their taste for motor-mouthed posturing and misogyny.”

The Stage: ** “Disparate performances from stars Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell and Darren Criss weaken a strongly designed New York revival of David Mamet’s famed play.”

The Wrap: “director Neil Pepe and his top-shelf cast of three explore how underclass grifters adopt the language of Big Business, how demonstrations of masculinity and bravado can calcify into toxicity and how individuals can be misled by conspiracy theories and lies into shocking acts of violence. (Scott Pask’s set also helps to underscore the message, as we follow the action in the theater’s in-the-round staging through stalactites and stalagmites of junk-shop objects that suggest the detritus of American excess.)”

American Buffalo continues to play at the Circle on the Square Theatre.

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