(Actors Joey Ouellette (left), as Donny Dubrow, Seamus Tokol, cast as Bobby, and Mark Lefebvre, as Walter “Teach” Cole, performing during a dress rehearsal of Post Productions’ presentation of American Buffalo at the Shadowbox Theatre in Windsor, Ontario, on Thursday, July 4, 2019. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
The play, American Buffalo by David Mamet, presented by Post Productions and opening tonight (July 5) at Shadowbox Theatre, is precisely the type of ideal entertainment for a lazy summer’s night. But what takes it beyond an intriguing script is the way the actors deliver on the promise Mamet sets out for his characters.
It all revolves around an incident in the 1970s concerning a famed historic US nickel from the 1930s, the one with a buffalo head. Donny Dubrow, the owner of Chicago’s Don’s Resale Shop, a place where everyone knows your nickname, sells the nickel to a customer but then calculates he gave it away for too little. He recruits pawn shop and late-night card playing regular Walter “Teach” Cole and an unseen card cheater Fletch to work out a caper to steal it back.
It is one of those ambitious bits of larceny able to fall off the rails even before it gets on the rails, all because of the characters. You can tell these are not your standard evening diners at The Berghoff by their fidgeting, which includes continually walking about the shop. Don, played by local beloved actor Joey Ouellette, is the most stable of the pair, and probably the most logical with some great lines.
When Teach complains his watch is broken, Don wants to know when it happened. “I don’t know,” says Teach. “Waddya mean ya don’t know when it broke, all you have to do is look at it.”
Teach, acted by Mark Lefebvre, a prolific actor as well with a considerable record of accomplishments, gives his character the full monty of kinetic energy and nerves. He is always able to spot cops outside the shop. Why he worries about them being around says a lot about his past. It is also no surprise he packs heat for the caper.
The real surprise in all of this is the exceptional performance of Seamus Tokol, a recent graduate of the Walkerville Centre for the Creative Arts. He too is no stranger to the stage. This is his 29th role since his seventh birthday. With his character Bob, or sometimes Bobby, he delivers a freshness with an economy of words often providing comic relief reminiscent of the dialogue of Frances McDormand and cast in the silver screen version of Fargo.
Replicating a pawn shop from the 70s is no easy task, but up to the task is set designer Matthew Burgess. As befits a shop well off of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, Burgess has created a backdrop clearly suggesting it is in the low-rent district, particularly its stained walls. Most of the items for sale are actually from the basements of those involved in Shadowbox.
But one item of decoration is rather interesting. Pasted hand-written messages are pasted around the shop including one with significant local history. Director Michael O’Reilly, who shares the directing chore with fellow Shadowbox principal Michael K. Potter, is particularly proud of a sign reading, “Meter Maids and Other Uniformed Thieves Stay Out.”
He tells Eyes On Windsor the sign replicates one a downtown Park Street confectioner placed in his window after the city installed parking meters and his customers starting finding themselves with tickets to pay.
Despite their failings, the three characters have a nobleness about them even though, as we find out, Fletch, who never appears, is as dishonest with them as he is with others. But that is life on the darker side of the Second City one that gets very dark very quickly. It is, after all a drama mind you littered with quite a bit of situational comedy. A play so superbly acted should elicit no excuses for not seeing it.
American Buffalo will be presented at the Shadowbox Theatre on July 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, & 20 2019. It is produced by Post Productions (Michael K. Potter, Fay Lynn & Michael O’Reilly with stage manager Fay Lynn).
Tickets are $25 each and available in advance online. Tickets will also be available at the door. The show starts at 8pm each night.
For more information please visit http://www.postproductionswindsor.ca or the American Buffalo listing on the Eyes On Windsor events calendar.
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.