Crafted from the wreckage of our oh-so-American dialect, the works of David Mamet are loaded with staccato outbursts of obscenities. His characters cuss up a storm in cadenced revisions of street slang, mapping the linguistic underbelly of a male-dominated business world. But his is no flippant use of raunchy dialogue; it's an earnest attempt to polish the charged rhythms of everyday speech, to genuinely craft a poetics of vulgarity.
"A lot of people see Mamet as a lot of dirty words. There's a whole lot of subtext that isn't apparent when you read it. But when you act it or see it performed, it's much different," says Casey Coale, who plays Donny in the production of Mamet's American Buffalo opening this weekend at the Country Playhouse.
One of Mamet's earlier plays, American Buffalo is a conversational tale centered around three small-time crooks who haphazardly try to recover a buffalo-head nickel from a coin collector. There's Donny, a junk dealer who sees himself as a businessman trying to move up in the world. He wants a legacy, a student to whom he can impart his streetwise business sense. Enter Bobby, a youth who works as his gofer and apprentice. Their mutual trust is soon torn asunder by the vitriolic rants of Teach, a gutter-mouthed buddy of Donny who believes "we all live like the cavemen." The three grifters rapidly establish a close rapport, but their growing distrust of each other foils their half-baked plans. This leads to tragic consequences and -- you guessed it -- a flurry of obscene outbursts.