While I recognize that Mamet captures well the kind of unsettling dialogue and awful relationships that awful people have…who cares about those awful characters that I don’t care about? They give me agita and they’re always unbelievably unsympathetic and hateful and whoa sexist (I continually feel cringely bad for Zosia and not just because she is still on "Girls"). So, his plays aren’t for me because I don’t like being made to feel nervous and agitated and unsatisfied that bad people don’t learn lessons or get punished, so I extra don’t want to pay for these feelings when at my happy place, the theatre. It gives me the terribles.
Well. That’s a lot of pressure to put on them. Joined by Tony-nominee Tom Sturridge, they’re fine actors but they’re not miracle workers. Literally nothing happens. Yet it’s enough to show us how vile everyone is and how gross life is, especially when you wear a purple leisure suit.
Okay, let’s backtrack. John Goodman plays Don, who runs a junk shop, not a pawn shop, I think there’s a difference, but anyway it’s a shop full of funk. The overly busy, junk-filled, crazy crammed set is quite remarkable and effective, like as soon as the lights hit it, I got nauseous because ugly things make me nauseous, like how I get when I watch sitcoms that don’t star beautiful people. (That’s a joke that’s the Mamet residue talking.) That’s some good set design. Don talks to his clearly-formerly-drug-ridden and bedraggled young friend, or protégé perhaps, named Bobby (Tom Sturridge). We learn that they’re thieves, con men of sorts, even though Goodman is wearing old man glasses on a chain like a nice boy and a Mr. Rogers cardigan.
Then a past-his-prime ginger pervert in the aforementioned purple leisure suit waltzes in (like really I think he waltzed) to show off his enormous side burns (real) and his hella pornstache and the audience got visibly excited because it was Damian Lewis. I was so excited to finally hear an English actor do a completely perfect American accent for the first time since I saw Andy Nyman in “Assassins”. But he opened his mouth, and shooting out like keg-stand-fueled projectile vomit by a skinny little teenager at his first frat party came a Chicago accent. A pretty perfect Chicago accent that he obviously trained seriously for, but a freaking strong as hell Chicago accent. It was insane. Most people in the audience I am sure don’t know that Chicagoans have a very very particular accent and probably just thought he was having a stroke. But the strongest accent in the history of Chicago was coupled with over-the-top shtick and hamming and it was too much, super distracting from the shitty character and the shitty play. They should hang him in Iran for that.
Sturridge, meanwhile, adopted the very accurate lazy drawl and rubbery physique of a former addict trying to stay clean minute by minute. He also had a teardrop tattoo on his face so he wasn’t the most sympathetic person, even though he was the most sympathetic person on stage.
Damian played “Teach”, a professional “businessman” as they say repeatedly to convince themselves they aren’t criminals. But you could tell he was professional and real business-like because he was wearing that suit. The three characters discuss how a well-dressed guy came in the day before and paid $90 for a Buffalo head nickel, which is why it’s called American Buffalo. Wow, $90 for a coin, he’s probably a collector, they say. So they decide to rob his house. Naturally.
So the whole two-act play is Teach and Don planning this robbery and trying to get rid of poor messed-up not-all-there Bobby, because Teach doesn’t trust him. That distrust warps Don’s formerly fatherly view of Bobby and he turns on him as well, even though Bobby didn’t do anything wrong. Except I mean probably kill a guy in prison or whatever the teardrop means. They plan this robbery based on absolutely zero facts and they decide they need an unseen player named Fletcher to help them. Fletcher is apparently the ‘businessman’ to end all ‘businessmen’ (like literally probably end them), and if even Teach admits that freely, hoo boy, he must be wearing f-ing neon tails or something. But as Teach and Don wait for Fletcher to arrive at the appointed time for the burgling, Bobby arrives at the junk shop to tell them that Fletcher is in the hospital! Oh no! PS OMG, this is where I think the director changed Mamet’s words, because every single time any character referred to Fletcher being in the hospital in this scene, which is A LOT, they said ‘in hospital’, which is a British thing. Americans don’t say ‘in hospital’, we say ‘in THE hospital’. Fletcher would have been in the hospital, not in hospital. And Mamet is American so that was REALLY weird to keep hearing.
ANYWAY, Teach obviously thinks Bobby is lying because he suspects him of spying on Don for this scary Chinese lady down the street who makes their bacon sandwiches every morning and gives them coffee and is suuuuper scary, apparently, sounds it. So based on this unfounded suspicion, Teach beats the shit out of Bobby for lying to them and trying to mess up their burgling, and Don just lets it happen. Bobby goes unresponsive, and Don finally is like, “Oh Teach…um…hey…sorry to bother you dude…bro…hey…maybe go get your car, maybe let’s take him to the hospital? I mean to hospital? This is really serious.” But of course they go on talking about nothing and doing nothing instead, resulting probably in further brain damage to Bobby. And then they find out that Fletcher really WAS in the hospital, I mean in hospital, and so they beat up poor Bobby for absolutely no reason. So after learning this information, Don again says quarter-heartedly, “Oh hey Teach…oh did I compliment your suit yet? it goes real nice with your sideburns…anyway…um…hey maybe go get your car?” THIS GOES ON FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES AND THE POOR BOY IS DYING. I have NEVER been SO CLOSE to breaking the fourth wall as an audience member and yelling GO GET YOUR F-ING CAR, TEACH! GET THE F-ING CAR! I was literally squirming in my seat trying not to flip my shit. It was INSANE. Finally Bobby wakes a little, bleeding from his head wound, and I think Teach left to get his car and I think they drive him to the hospital but at this point my surroundings were all glittery shooting stars produced as a result of my blinding furytrembles and agitation.
So I think that’s how it ended, they don’t do the robbery and stuff but I’m sure they go on to do something equally bad the next night. And that’s all. DAMMIT MAMET.
AUDIENCE: Pretty decent! I didn’t notice any phones, and I only heard a little whispering. I’m very impressed, London! BUT, I must warn you if you see this show (haha are you going to???) or if you see any subsequent show at the Wyndham: The Upper Circle is AWFUL. Do not sit up there, you won’t be able to see down to the stage. I don’t know what pissed off the architect so much when he designed this building, but you do not want to sit up top, period. We were in the first row of the upper circle, so that was good, but that’s because no one was in front of us and we could lean forward to look down. I don't think the people behind us could see anything except the 100 old bicycles hanging from the ceiling. So crazy! Don’t do it!