Theater Reviews



Belasco Theatre, New York (runs indefinitely)

Anyone who's seen David Mamet's "American Buffalo" knows that it features one of the best entrances for an actor in modern theatrical history. It occurs a few minutes in, when Teach, one of a trio of petty criminals, bursts into the junkshop that is their unofficial headquarters and delivers a fiery tirade featuring a nonstop barrage of the playwright's trademark expletives.

In the new Broadway production, a live-wire John Leguizamo -- following in the footsteps of such illustrious predecessors as Robert Duvall, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman (the film version) and William H. Macy -- makes the most of it.

But he's far from the only reason for seeing director Robert Falls' well-acted revival. Also on hand are two performers making their Broadway debuts: Cedric the Entertainer, as Donny, the junkshop owner whose placid demeanor belies his feral instincts; and Haley Joel Osment as Bobby, the pathetic young junkie who serves as the duo's gofer.

Watching this unholy trio of characters stumble their way through an ill-conceived plan to rob a rare coin collection is, as usual, a treat. And with the lowlife characters pathetically couching their nefarious activities in business-speak language, it even has taken on a freshly contemporary resonance.

While it's not surprising that the edgy Leguizamo would excel as the volatile Teach, the performance by Cedric comes as something of a revelation. The performer, best known for his comedic talents, delivers a simmering, understated turn here that quietly compels.

Osment is somewhat less effective, rarely changing his facial expression from the anguished look so familiar from his delivery of the iconic line "I see dead people" in "The Sixth Sense." But his performance is affecting, especially in the play's final moments, when the slow-witted Bobby falls victim to Teach's rage.

Repeating his chores from the original Broadway production, Santo Loquasto has again provided a wonderfully cluttered junkshop set design that feels entirely lived in.

Cast: John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer, Haley Joel Osment.
Playwright: David Mamet.
Director: Robert Falls.
Set/costume designer: Santo Loquasto.
Lighting designer: Brian MacDevitt.