When he started out, David Mamet was considered an extravagantly unfettered writer whose works were eruptions of furious emotion. But here at the other side of his career, and with his plays of the past few years as a guide, we can see now that Mamet is and always was a mannerist.
The Playhouse Rep Company's production of American Buffalo is a case in point. Because of Gregory Lehane's methodical direction, we immediately spot how much Mamet owes to his idol, Harold Pinter. What Pinter does with the pause, Mamet does with repetition: Both force us to consider what's not being said. For plays with as much vulgarity as Mamet's, they're as exact and stylized as Wilde's.
Buffalo is about three Chicago lowlifes trying to pull off a caper for which they have neither the skill nor the temperament. Robert Turano approaches the role of Teach with plenty of crackle and fury, nicely playing off of John Shepard's ruminative and nuanced Donny. And Jarrod DiGiorgi makes for an appropriately pathetic Bobby.
It had better be no surprise that Lehane's direction is nicely textured, capable of both sharp and blunt force. I do wonder if he's focused just a little too much on Mamet's singular mannerisms: The production feels a bit measured and stately, and at times the stylization comes across as posing. Still, while the pace could be just a few hairs faster, this is a thoroughly respectable production of a contemporary American classic.
American Buffalo continues through Dec. 10. Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland. 412-621-4445