Controversial play coming to campus

Rachel Morrison/Pioneer
Drama sudents (left to right) Mitch McFarland as “Bob,” Gabe Pranter as “Teach,” and Roderick Wright as “Don,” rehearse their roles in the upcoming play “American Buffalo” on stage in the Bruce Owen Theater. The play will debut Sept. 29.

A theater professor at OCCC has chosen to direct the controversial play “American Buffalo,” by playwright David Mamet.

Brent Noel, theater professor and director, said the play is controversial due to extensive use of vulgar language.

“Almost every vulgar term you can think of is used at some point,” Noel said. “Curse words, racial slurs, sexual slurs, the works. Unless your kids have the magical ability to not repeat what they hear, this is not the play to bring them to.”

But the play is not a showcase for vulgarity, and choosing to present this play it not a way of advocating for vulgarity, Noel said.

“Mamet uses this language because it’s common. People talk like this, and he wanted people to understand his characters,” he said.

Gabriel Pranter, theater major, who plays the character Teach, says the crude language shouldn’t be the focus.

“The way David Mamet writes, it’s almost poetic. You need the language to understand these characters, to get a feel for who they are,” Pranter said.

“I would almost compare it to Shakespeare. If the language wasn’t in it, it wouldn’t be the same.”

McFarland said the vulgarity isn’t presenting too many difficulties for him.

“We, the cast, are all younger individuals and most of these are words we use when we’re angry,” McFarland said. “But we’re all very anxious to see how an audience is going to deal with some of this language.”

The three-man play revolves around a junkyard proprietor named Don, his assistant Bob, and a friend of Don’s named Teach, who together plan a theft, said Noel.

“The play takes place in a junkyard. And I think that’s emblematic of the characters. They’ve been tossed aside by the world.”

The characters don’t seem likable at first glance, Noel said.

“But because their humanity comes through in the play, you start to empathize with them, and realize, ‘Boy, these guys are just struggling to get by.’”

Pranter describes Teach as “a loose cannon, and kind of a snake, a real sleazy guy.”

“It’s a lot of fun to play this kind of character. It’s definitely challenging, because it’s different than anything I’ve done before, but I’m looking forward to it,” Pranter said.

McFarland, on the other hand, says his character is “a bit of a moron.”

“He’s a little forgetful, screws stuff up every once in a while.”

Noel said that he hopes people will give “American Buffalo” a chance.

“It’s definitely an abusive play, in the way it uses language, and in the choice of language,” he said. “But if people can get past that, if they can accept it as a part of the characters, I think they’re in for a treat.”

American Buffalo will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29 through Oct. 1 in the Bruce Owen theater. For more information, email

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