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This is the play that put David Mamet on the map as a major American playwright when it appeared on Broadway in 1977, winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play. And yes, this is also the play that earned Mamet a reputation for creating expletive-laden dialogue. Set in an urban junk shop, three small-time crooks make plans to rob a man of his coin collection, including what they believe to be an extremely valuable “Buffalo nickel.” However, as the night goes on, motivations change, loyalties squirm and shift and paranoia rises to generate heart-pounding drama.

Runtime: Approximately 2 hours including one intermission.

Disclaimers: For Mature Audiences (Language)
Member of *Actors' Equity Association, +Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, **United Scenic Artists
Press Coverage
One of the pleasures of director Barbara Damashek's production [of American Buffalo] is how much of the humor she and her actors bring out of Mamet's 1975 script. Read Full Article »
- Chad Jones
San Francisco Chronicle
[an] explosive revival...[Playwright David] Mamet nails the cutthroat nature of doing business in America. Read Full Article »
- Karen D'Souza
Bay Area News Group
Interview with American Buffalo Director Barbara Damashek Read Full Article »
- Robert Hurwitt
San Francisco Chronicle
David Mamet's American Buffalo and Aurora Theatre's postage-stamp stage were made for each other. Read Full Article »
- Leo Stutzin
The Huffington Post
Just watching these actors bring Mamet’s humor to the surface is worth the price of admission. Read Full Article »
- Cy Ashley Webb
Stark Insider
[American Buffalo] still packs a big punch Read Full Article »
- Leslie Katz
The San Francisco Examiner
American Buffalo is beautifully constructed, cunningly observed, shamelessly theatrical, and wickedly funny. Read Full Article »
- George Haymont
My Cultural Landscape
Aurora Theatre Company’s revival of the 1975 classic throws punches of every kind — whether those of the narrative sort or the fist-to-face variety — with expert impact. Read Full Article »
- Sarah Adler
The Daily Californian
This is truly theater to savor. Read Full Article »
- Charles Brousse
Pacific Sun
Impeccably presented, the Aurora's production [of American Buffalo] is a stunner. Read Full Article »
- Lou Fancher
SF Weekly
Behind the Scenes



DAVID MAMET - Playwright
KURT LANDISMAN+ - Lighting Designer
ANGELA NOSTRAND* - Stage Manager
ERIC SINKKONEN+ - Set Designer
MATT STINES - Sound Designer

JAMES CARPENTER* has performed in the Bay Area for 30 years. James is a former Associate Artist with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, performing in over 30 shows there. James’ other Bay Area credits include the Aurora Theatre Company (The Birthday Party, The Masterbuilder, John Gabriel Borkman), American Conservatory Theater, The Magic Theatre, Marin theatre Company, San Jose Repertory Theatre, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, and TheatreWorks. This will be his 12th year as an Associate Artist with the California Shakespeare Theatre. Regional credits include work at Yale Repertory Theatre, Arizona Theatre Company, Huntington Theatre, the Intiman Theatre, The Old Globe, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a recipient of BATCC's Continued Excellence in the Arts and Lifetime Achievement Awards and in 2010 was named a Lunt-Fontanne Fellow.
PAUL VINCENT O'CONNOR* has worked in all mediums. Regional theatre includes 16 years as a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He toured internationally with the Steppenwolf production of August: Osage County and the Druid Theatre of Galway's The Cripple of Inishmann. He has appeared in movies including Seabiscuit and Inherit the Wind; and TV shows including West Wing, The Closer, X-Files, 24, Touch, Jag. In 2013 he did Long Day's Journey into Night at the Kansas City Actor's Theatre, and two pilots in Los Angeles. Bay Area patrons may remember his work with The Drama Studio, Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre Company, California (and Berkeley) Shakespeare Theatre, Magic Theatre, and Theatre on the Square.
RAFAEL JORDAN* is making his Aurora Theatre Company debut. He was seen as Dorante in Livermore Shakespeare Festival’s The Liar. New York Credits: Apollodorus in Caesar and Cleopatra (Off-Broadway), George in Uncle Tom’s Cabin during Metropolitan Playhouse’s Obie Award season, I Feel Your Pain with multiple Obie winner Kathryn Grody, 365 Days/365 Plays and The Open Road at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Films (imdb): Me, You and the Road directed by Joshua Miller, Best Laid Plans directed by Matt Landin, Othello in Othello the Web Series at ReadySetGoTheatre [.] com. Rafael is currently getting his MFA from American Conservatory Theater.
Member of *Actors' Equity Association, +Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, **United Scenic Artists

David Mamet's America

mamet drawing 400David Mamet has been pushing America's buttons for the last four decades, ever since AMERICAN BUFFALO premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 1975 before opening on Broadway in 1977. The play "securely established [Mamet] as a major American playwright and firmly anchored Chicago as an important center of theater activity," says the Chicago Tribune. "The power of American Buffalo, its dynamic use of language and its vision of the underbelly of American life, boosted the city's theatrical stock beyond anything that had gone before... Dozens of small theaters, encouraged and challenged by Mamet's leap to fame, planted their flags and established an energetic, hard-driving "Chicago-style" of home-grown, home-made theater."

Few playwrights have achieved such influence or such success – fifteen Broadway productions including SPEED-THE-PLOW, THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD, and RACE; the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for GLENGARRYGLEN ROSS; and major Hollywood movies including HOUSE OF GAMES, WAG THE DOG, RONIN, and THE UNTOUCHABLES. Even fewer have provoked such strong reactions both positive and negative. Mamet's talent for crackling dialogue has always been applauded, even as his depictions of women and the battle of the sexes have sometimes provoked accusations of misogyny – as with 1992's sexual harassment drama OLEANNA. Mamet's plays and screenplays, filled with small-timecon men and language that elevates profanity to poetry, reveal – and revel in – an America in which any weakness is an opportunity to take advantage, and the possibility of a lie undermines every hint of truth.

The play that launched Mamet's reputation seems at fi rst like a small story. A junk shop owner and his associates conspire to plan a robbery. The plot turns on a Buffalo nickel; a rare coin which had been overlooked in the junk shop until a savvy customer discovered and purchased it. "The play's ostensible simplicity, however, expands into a parodic version of the American dream," according to Matthew Roudané in The Cambridge Companion to David Mamet. The characters' obsession with questions of fairness, of deserving, and above all of business become so all-consuming that they threaten to destroy the bonds of friendship and trust that hold us together as civilized human beings. The play "offers a portrait of the Republic in terminal decay," Roudané continues, "its communal endeavor and individual resilience all but disappeared. The trust and unity invoked on its coinage have now devolved into paranoia, the security and hope it once offered into a frightening violence." That these bonds are threatened over such comparatively paltry sums is all the more damning of an America that places so much more value on profi t and success than on loyalty or compassion.

This view – that business is destructive to human relations – would seem to place Mamet far on the left of the political spectrum. That seems to be where Mamet began. But in 2008, Mamet published an essay in the Village Voice entitled "Why I Am No Longer a 'Brain-Dead Liberal.'" In it, he argues that the liberal point of view is "that everything is always wrong," and that "people are basically good at heart." Now a wildly successful middle-aged auteur, Mamet argues that in his experience everything is not always wrong and that "people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine."

"I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in theUnited States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances – that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired – in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it."

On topics including Israel, gun control, and free markets, Mamet has since staked out a position for himself that is very much in line with the far right. "In his younger days," says Charles McNulty in the LA Times, "Mamet turned con men into feisty symbols of the fiasco of American capitalism. Now an unregenerate capitalist himself, he's been on the hunt for all those have-nots eager to pick his pocket with their outlandish demands for justice, equality and fairness.

"Mamet has been celebrated for his unparalleled use of language; his plays endlessly discussed and debated. No doubt the debate will continue for many years to come. In the meantime, plays like American Buffalo continue to speak for themselves in a voice as distinctive and important as any in the American theatre.


production photos
Photos by David Allen
*Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers
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