Actors shine in controversial play

The show business axiom “always leave them wanting more” was alive and well Oct. 1, as an ensemble of three young actors performed David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” in OCCC’s Bruce Owen Theater.

The stage setting and the seedy sound of Tom Waits blues/jazz music transported the audience to Don’s Resale Shop in 1970s Chicago.

Odds and ends were piled high, windows with peeling letters were dirty, and an old desk and counter reflected a junk shop business, while an antique kitchen table declared an almost homey atmosphere.

Shop owner Donny Dubrow grilled his gopher, Bobby, about why he left his post of watching a “mark.”

While Don owns a business, it seems he makes his money by other means.

Don, Bobby, Walter “Teach” Cole, Ruthie and Fletcher play cards together while they plan their next “job.” Ruthie and Fletch are never seen, but the audience gets to know them through the other three characters.

A man who purchased a rare nickel for next to nothing has ripped off Donny. Bobby and Don decided to follow the guy and rob him. When Teach heard of the plan, he wanted Bobby out, and himself in.

Bobby feels a sense of loyalty toward Donny and took matters into his own hands, getting the nickel back. This didn’t sit well with Teach, and he lost his temper, tore the shop up and beat Bobby with a metal pipe.

Roderick Wright brought the kind-hearted criminal pathos to the stage in his portrayal of Donny. From his fatherly treatment of Bobby, to his frustration while trying to balance friendships with business deals, he exuded loyalty in a questionable situation.

Gabriel Pranter burst on to the stage, cursing Ruthie with all the passion of someone who had much more anger built up than could be justified by one remark over a piece of toast. “That $#&# said ‘Help yourself’, like I shouldn’t have touched her f%#& food!”

He gave voice to rage with his outbursts of violence and expressed the true essence of Teach’s personality. The foul language and innuendo became a part of the character and, therefore, shocking but not offensive.

A big surprise was the acting ability shown by Mitchell McFarland in his role as Bobby. If there were an award at OCCC for most improved acting, it would go to this young man.

In several past performances McFarland has shown he is not afraid to tackle any role in order to hone his craft. That is the heart of a true actor. His perseverance paid off in his portrayal of the loyal, ex-junkie who, sadly, like a beaten pup, still sees his boss as a hero and friend.

Thanks to Director Brent Noel for a gutsy move in bringing this play to OCCC.

It worked!

Rating: A+

To contact Cynthia Praefke, email

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