Albany Civic’s “American Buffalo”: A Rare Find

ALBANY — American Buffalo by David Mamet is a play that is rough around the edges. In order to get to the heart of the piece, you’ll have to travel inside Don’s Resale Shop and stay awhile. Find your way through the hard exteriors and Mamet’s terse dialogue, and you’ll find the heart of it, pumping blood through the lines. You will also find three of the most passionate performances the Capital Region has to offer.

American Buffalo is home to shop owner Don (Evan Jones), young gofer Bobby (Anthony Halloway), and hustler Teach (David Rook). Don runs the shop and runs Bobby, who scouts and fetches on demand. Jones commands, as Don, in silence and through dialogue, but mostly in silence. A look into Jones’ eyes reveals a crazed paranoia that captures Don’s essence. His cool body language often says it all. It’s clear why Halloway’s Bobby is so concerned with gaining his favor. 

Halloway plays eager and sheepish well. He shows a clear intent to impress Don in the way a son might want to impress his father. And in many ways, Don is like a father figure to Bobby. Although Jones is an expert at playing reticence, the heart continues to pulse through the story. 

The play finds its stride quickly with Jones and Halloway, then reaches new heights when Rook enters as Teach. Older and maybe wiser, Teach is aptly named and does not hesitate to imbue his life lessons on his scene counterparts. For audiences who have seen Rook on area stages in the past, he will be hard to recognize here — but in the best way possible. From the moment he explodes into the scene, the audience knows who he is and what he does. He is the source of several laughs throughout the play, thanks to his mile-a-minute stream of consciousness, which he never holds back. 

This is a tour de force performance from each player. Each feels irreplaceable in this production. And each feels like they make the other two better. It’s this type of ensemble work that theater thrives on. At the direction of Linda D. Shirey, this production achieves mastery. 

Shirey strikes gold with the talent on stage as well as the talent behind the scenes. Costume designer Colleen Lovett creates a wardrobe that works as an extension of the characters themselves. Set designer and properties manager Kat Fronheiser fills the stage with an elaborate set that allows the audience to step into Don’s shop as if they were shoppers, too. 

In a play so tense and wrought with loaded silence, sound design must strike a balance between subtle and poignant. Sound designer Brian Starnes creates a world all his own within Don’s shop, as two ticking clocks ominously compete from moment one. Before the audience meets a single character on stage, the clocks set a tone that the actors must carry on, and they do so with ferocity. 

American Buffalo is a challenging play to execute successfully. The Albany Civic players have done a stand-out job delivering this story about loyalty and business to their audience. If you choose to step inside Don’s Resale Shop for a visit, expect to think about this production after you leave. You might leave questioning what you would do if you were Bobby, Don, or Teach. Good theater sparks good conversation. And American Buffalo is good theater.

American Buffalo runs through May 21, with tickets and more information available at

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