SHERIDAN — Warning No. 1: The upcoming play by the Sheridan Civic Theater Guild, American Buffalo, is not suitable for children, or really anyone offended by strong language. Warning No. 2: The cast of three men will unapologetically use that strong language to bring to life a David Mamet classic to the intimate Carriage House Theater stage.
A play that at one point was performed in by the well-known actors of our time — Robert Duvall, William H. Macy and Robert De Niro to name a few — was chosen by SCTG longtime director Chip King nearly 20 years ago. He patiently waited for the right moment to break out the controversial piece.
The last experiment of its kind found the director in trouble with his former employer for taking creative liberties and including the strong language without clearly defined warnings on the promotional materials. This time, though, a prominent red bar anchors the bottom of each poster informing potential audiences of an R rating and extreme language and situations. Mamet writes in the voice of Donny the junk shop owner, Teach the street wise guy and Bobby, the junkie, bringing forward rough language with equally rough characters.
The shock value is what drew King to the script initially, but after returning to it numerous times, it’s the actual storyline that prodded him to move it from a back file to the live Sheridan stage. The abnormal script keeps longtime SCTG actor David Myers in on the artistic action and brings two new faces to the group: Pete Emmons and Rick Miller.
“To me that’s cool if we can bring new people in,” King said.
Myers has been on a couple Sheridan stages, but the intimate atmosphere of the Carriage House Theater is one of his favorites. Each creak from a person shifting in their seat during a lull in the play is heard, but so is every joyed laugh. For this play, though, Myers isn’t sure what to anticipate from the group’s close audience.
“Strong language is an effect of the genuine nature of the characters,” Myers said. “What (Sheridan audiences are) going to get if they come to this show is a play by one of the American masters. David Mamet, he invented a whole new way of characters talking to one another.”
Myers said people don’t realize currently popular television shows emulate the feel of a Mamet script. The small cast carefully crafted the characters to make that connection easily recognizable.
“We spent a lot of time making sure that the characters were developed the right way,” King said.
The play will offend nearly every subset of the American population in addition to the strong language. But, with careful articulation and passion behind each character, the SCTG group hopes to bring Mamet to life as it should be experienced.
“So many shows, so many plays, so many directors will edit out that language,” King said. “If I edited out all the language, the show would be about five, maybe 10 minutes long.”
King and his cast hope the Sheridan audience will look beyond the offenses and language to see the heart of the story in Mamet’s writing.
“American Buffalo” will run Jan. 24-27 and Jan. 31-Feb. 3. Tickets are available at the WYO Theater box office.