When, more than 30 years ago now, American Buffalo burst onto the American stage, its profane, staccato poetry helped turn David Mamet into David Mamet. And David Mamet, in turn, helped us get used to the idea that stage and screen art can be vulgar but exhilarating at the same time. The problem with the current revival of American Buffalo, now playing on Broadway, is not only that there’s nothing especially startling about the play anymore; what really hurts is the listless execution, which doesn’t tap into the ugly beauties of the work.
The three actors make up one of the stranger trios you’ll ever see assembled on the New York stage. John Leguizamo is a natural choice for Teach, the peppery lowlife who muscles in on a low-rent plan to steal some expensive coins; most of the energy coming off the stage comes from him. But his costars can’t match him. As Don, the calculating owner of the pawnshop where all the scheming takes place, Cedric the Entertainer tries too hard to appear serious so that his line readings are stolid, and his stand-up comedy background sticks out when he resorts to shtick during a few of the Don’s lighter moments. Like the last member of the trio — Haley Joel Osment, playing Don’s young protégé, Bob — Cedric also fails to convince us that Don is stupid enough to get wrapped up in the scam he’s wrapped up in. Three decades later, Buffalo is still an uneasy drama that queasily draws us in as dumb guys hatch a dumb plot, but these actors never find an exciting rhythm, and they leave us instead with an uneasy question: What’s the point? C (Tickets: Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200)