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American Buffalo (play)

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Title: American Buffalo (play)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: David Mamet, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Tony Award for Best Revival, Haley Joel Osment, Cedric the Entertainer, American buffalo, William Petersen, List of fiction set in Chicago, Callum Keith Rennie
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American Buffalo (play)

American Buffalo
Written by David Mamet
Characters Walter "Teach" Cole
Donny Dubrow
Date premiered 1975
Place premiered Goodman Theatre, Chicago
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting Don's Resale Shop, a junkshop in Chicago, on one Friday

American Buffalo is a 1975 play by American playwright David Mamet which had its premiere in a showcase production at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago. After two more showcase productions, it opened on Broadway on February 16, 1977.[1] Critic Frank Rich called it "one of the best American plays of the last decade."[2]


Act I takes place at about 11 AM. Don, who owns the junk shop where the entire play takes place, has sold a buffalo nickel to a customer for ninety dollars but now suspects it is worth considerably more. He and his young gofer, Bob (sometimes called Bobby), plan to steal the coin back. Bob has been keeping watch on the customer's house and reports that he has left for the weekend with a suitcase. Teach, a poker buddy of Don's, arrives and learns of the scheme. He persuades Don that Bob is too inexperienced and untrustworthy for the burglary, and proposes himself as Bob's replacement. Teach suggests they steal the whole coin collection and more. Don insists on their poker buddy Fletcher going with Teach. Teach continues to argue that he can do without Fletcher.

Act II takes place a little before midnight on the same day. Teach and Don make final preparations to begin the burglary while waiting for Fletcher, who is late. Teach tells Don that Fletcher is a liar and a cheater at cards, and prepares to go commit the burglary on his own. Don is trying to persuade him not to take his gun with him when Bob appears at the store. He attempts to sell Don a buffalo nickel, similar to the one Don had sold the customer. When asked where he got the coin, Bob is evasive. Teach suspects that Bob and Fletcher have organized and completed their own burglary behind Don and Teach's backs. He asks Bob where Fletcher is. Bob tells him that Fletcher was mugged by some Mexicans and is in a hospital, but when Don calls the hospital, they have no record of his admission. Bob claims that he must have been mistaken about the name of the hospital, but the suspicious Teach strikes him on the head with a metal object. Another friend calls, corroborating Bob's story and naming the correct hospital. Don calls the hospital and confirms that Fletcher has been admitted with a broken jaw. Bob confesses that he made up the story about the customer leaving with a suitcase, and that he bought the second nickel from a coin dealer to make up to Don for his failure to keep tabs on the customer. Don admonishes Teach for wounding Bob and orders him to get his car so they can take him to the hospital.


As is emblematic of Mamet's writing style, the play's dialogue is sometimes terse and often vulgar. Teach says "cunt" numerous times and both Don and Teach say "fuck" even more. (By way of contrast, the younger character Bobby only says "fuck" in situations of extreme duress: immediately after being beaten and his final apology to Donnie.) Mamet's profanity is not employed for shock value, but is rather an integral component of his characters' "profane poetry", which, according to frequent collaborator Gregory Mosher, "worked the iambic pentameter out of the vernacular of the underclass."[3] The characters' sometimes vulgar lexicon, moreover, may be seen as psychologically necessary armor against their brutal environment.[4]

The parenthetical stage directions are straightforward and do not provide line readings.

Awards and nominations

The play won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the 1977 season, and was also nominated for two Tony Awards: Best Direction of a Play and Best Scenic Design (Santo Loquasto). It received four Drama Desk Award nominations, including Outstanding New Play (American).

The 1983 revival was nominated for the Tony Award, Best Reproduction and the Drama Desk Award, Outstanding Actor in a Play (Pacino).

In 1976 the play won an Obie Award for best new play.[5]

It was revived on Broadway in 2008 and starred Cedric the Entertainer, Haley Joel Osment, and John Leguizamo, but closed after only 8 performances.

J.J.Johnston Received a Theatre World Award for his portrayal of "Donny".

The play "American Buffalo" was dedicated to "Mr. J.J. Johnston of Chicago, Illinois

Film adaptation

The play was also adapted to a 1996 film, with Dennis Franz (Don), Dustin Hoffman (Teach), and Sean Nelson (Bobby) starring.

2002 Revival

April/May 2002 at Royal Exchange, Manchester, UK. Directed by Greg Hersov.

Ben Keaton won Best Actor and Paul Popplewell was nominated Best Supporting Actor at Manchester Theatre Awards (M.E.N.)& TV Awards.


  1. ^ Mamet, David (1977). American Buffalo. Grove Press. ISBN . 
  2. ^ Rich, Frank."Theatre: Al Pacino, American Buffalo" New York Times review, October 28, 1983
  3. ^ McCarter, Jeremy (2008-02-24). "David Mamet - Ira Nadel - Book Review - New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-19. 
  4. ^ Nightingale, Benedict (1983-11-06). American Buffalo' Proves Its Quality"'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-19. 
  5. ^ "Private Tutor". Retrieved 2011-12-19. 

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