American Buffalo @ OFS Arrogance is prolific in the thespian world of Oxford, in both
character and production. Though in productions of real quality
it is excusable, to find a play that is not only brilliant but
also completely removed from this ridiculous and, to a degree,
offensive snobby seriousness is refreshing and rewarding.
American Buffalo is, in a word, superlative. It is directed and
acted with aplomb, and funny when it needs to be in an unforced,
natural way. At no point is the acting strained and even the
American accents are exemplary, something that student drama
usually falters on. The play is a heist story sans heist, based in a junk shop in
Middle America. When the owner of the shop, Don, sells what he
thinks is a worthless nickel for a huge profit, he and his friend
Bobby hatch a plan to rob the man who bought it of his coin
collection. Their plans are intercepted and changed by Teach, who
convinces Don to leave dopey Bob out of the plans. The play is
really about small-town plans by smalltown minds and their
inevitable failure. Far from being depressing, the play is really
very funny and entirely compulsive. It is the acting that makes this production as good as it is,
although it does have a good basis in the award-winning script by
the legendary David Mamet. All three actors are fantastic: Mark
Grimmer is brilliant and affecting as Don, perfectly cast and
never once faltering. His reaction to Teach’s speeches about his junk shop is
particularly interesting and his underlying affection for the
simple, ex-drug addict Bobby is touching. Harry Lloyd carries the
part of Bobby so convincingly that I cannot imagine him speaking
or acting in any other way; his skill is not only in speaking but
his movement, his twitches, looks, walk. Everything is carried
with such ability that the audience cannot help but fall
hopelessly in love with the character. Michael Lesslie, as Teach,
is also wonderful and, as the others, entirely convincing. He
provides some of the most humorous moments of the play and his
involvement in his character is obvious from his ease in
encapsulating the essence of Teach. The direction is first-rate: Ben White evidently has a huge
amount of skill and imagination. This is his last production for
the team behind the play, Cookie Jar Productions; he should be
commended for an outstanding swan song. Any bad points about this
production should be left unsaid. Go! It is the best production
you will probably see this term.ARCHIVE: 4th week TT 2004