American Buffalo

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Ever since Samuel Beckett demonstrated with Waiting for Godot in 1954 that an intense exploration of a static situation, replacing the conventional causal plot, could not only be philosophically provocative, but dramatically exciting as well, the modern theater has been glutted with such “situational” or “metaphorical” plays, ranging in quality...

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Ever since Samuel Beckett demonstrated with Waiting for Godot in 1954 that an intense exploration of a static situation, replacing the conventional causal plot, could not only be philosophically provocative, but dramatically exciting as well, the modern theater has been glutted with such “situational” or “metaphorical” plays, ranging in quality from unquestioned excellence to thorough mediocrity. Thus, the basic situation in American Buffalo has been exploited by a score of contemporary dramatists to the point that it has almost become a cliché.

Two or three men wait somewhere for something or to do something. While waiting, they fill the time with apparently aimless dialogue, act out their idiosyncrasies, and play “games” with themselves and their surroundings. Their concealed and not so concealed prejudices, dislikes, and perversities surface and clash with those of their associates; tension mounts as whatever they are waiting for fails to arrive or whatever they are to do becomes increasingly delayed, difficult, or unlikely. Eventually the conflicts either erupt into violence or near-violence (Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter or The Caretaker) or they simply unwind and dissipate (as in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot or Endgame).

To present such a play in 1977, twenty-five years after Waiting for Godot, required audacity leavened with folly. Not only to succeed, but to do so with originality in a form that would seem to be dried up, requires an exceptional talent indeed. Echoes of the contemporary masters—especially Pinter—are present, of course, but Mamet’s vision and vocabulary are his own and American Buffalo is as fresh and unique a product as any on the recent American stage.

The primary reason for Mamet’s success is probably that, while Absurdist ideas and techniques have been in the dramatic atmosphere for more than two decades, attempts to harness it to the American experience have been largely unsuccessful, Edward Albee’s periodic forays into the area notwithstanding. David Mamet is really the first dramatist to weld the force of the situational play to the American environment with a characteristically American rhythm and diction (although two other fine young playwrights, David Rabe and Sam Shepard, have utilized absurdist materials quite effectively. Rabe’s plays are, however, more conventionally experimental and essentially realistic, while Shepard’s are wildly powerful in language and image, but generally lack the focus needed for a coherent theatrical experience).

As in all effective examples of the situational approach, the setting of American Buffalo is crucial. Mamet’s three would-be felons wait and plan in Don’s Resale Shop, a crowded, messy junk shop that becomes a metaphor for the lives of those characters that inhabit it. Its claustrophobic density suggests their narrow, trapped lives. The various objects that are piled and jammed aimlessly together are all bits and pieces of the American culture turned to worthless scrap. These “things” (the word takes on ominous connotations during the play) have little present value, but retain the dangerous capacity to stimulate the thoughts, false expectations, and absurd dreams of these three sad men who sit amidst the clutter.

It is not stretching the metaphor too far to see the characters themselves as “junk objects,” as individuals outside society, whose only connection to it lies in those distorted expectations and fantasies it induces. Perhaps such vague hopes and unlikely dreams can even have a positive value in such lives as they blunt the dismal reality of the bleak present and negative future. But, given the stimulus that opens up a glimmer of real possibility—however far-fetched—to these longings, they can potentially provoke violence and destruction. This is the simple dynamic that animates American Buffalo.

Don Dubrow, middle-aged owner of the salvage shop, discovers a gem in his trash, or, rather, has it discovered for him. A well-dressed stranger walks into his shop, spots a buffalo-head nickel and, after a short negotiation, buys it for ninety dollars. This sudden, amazing profit awakens Dubrow to the possibilities of coins. With his young friend and helper Bob, an addict painfully trying to stay clean, Dubrow develops a crude plan to rob the dealer of his entire collection. Uneasy about his dangerous project, he mentions it to another friend and “business associate,” Walter “Teach” Cole, a petty crook and second-rate gambler. Teach quickly convinces Dubrow that the job is too complex and risky for Bob and so replaces him as the would-be thief.

Thus, the play in many ways resembles Pinter’s The Caretaker, but with an emphasis and twist that makes it distinctly American. As in the Pinter play, an ambiguous, subtle relationship between two men is threatened by the intrusion of a third male figure, a volatile, manipulative character who would use and then sacrifice the others to his own needs and desires. The pending crime, however, makes the conflict more than simple manipulation; it becomes a test of all the individuals concerned. It also establishes a social and psychological context for the play that is distinctly American (as Pinter’s work is distinctively British).

The relationship between Dubrow and Bob is undefined, but strong. Dubrow clearly enjoys his dominance over the younger man, and Bob expresses no resentment as a dutiful, subservient “gofer.” He has a real need, both practical and emotional, for the older man, although the precise nature of the need is not clear: father and son? Lovers? Both? It is hard to say, but, whatever it is, Mamet is able to suggest a real emotional bond between them with a minimum of verbiage.

Teach is the dynamic center of the play (as is Davies in The Caretaker), a volatile, self-pitying, grandiose paranoic, whose mounting frustrations and desperate manipulations increasingly threaten to explode into violence. He is also a catalog of American clichés, prejudices, anxieties, dreams, and hates. A small-time sneak thief and chiseler, Teach sees himself as the epitome of the American system and defender of free enterprise, which he defines as the freedom to do whatever one wants in order to make a quick profit. He refers to his petty thefts as “business enterprises,” and sees the coin collection as his one shot for success. Thus, the play becomes a kind of parody of the American Dream story, the Horatio Alger tale of success which goes to those daring enough to recognize and seize that sudden opportunity when it appears. But all three characters are comically inept as thieves; they are clowns, but desperate clowns. The real driving force behind their potential crime is not greed, but fear and hatred; fear that they are indeed thorough failures, and hatred toward the coin dealer for his success, the apparent ease with which he makes money, his snobbishness, his lifestyle, the sexiness of his girl friend.

As Teach’s bragging becomes more extreme, his fears, cruelty, and suppressed violence become more overt and dangerous. His hostility, especially toward the mild and inoffensive Bob, intensifies; his paranoic fears become more open—he quakes whenever a police car passes by; and his ridiculous incapacities, as well as his own awareness of them, become more blatant and desperate. His irritation sharpens when Dubrow decides to bring in another crook, a slightly more skillful thief-gambler named Fletcher, actually to steal the collection. Teach’s desperation and paranoia are made concrete when he produces a gun, and after the whole project is aborted (when Fletcher is mugged and hospitalized), his rage strikes out at Bob. He gets the sudden delusion that the mugging is fake and that Bob and Fletcher have somehow managed to steal the coin collection out from under him.

Teach’s violence is, of course, a product of his frantic attempt to preserve his ludicrous self-image as a skillful, respectable “businessman” whose lack of material success can be attributed only to bad luck. This one job is vital to both Teach and Don because it will prove that they are not the mediocre failures that, inside themselves, they know they are. Put to the final test it is obvious that they lack both the intelligence and the nerve to carry out the robbery; they can turn their hostility only towards each other. Don is actually relieved by Fletcher’s mishap, which both aborts their plans and gives them an excuse for it. But Teach, forced to a final acceptance of his failure, cracks completely. After hitting Bob he goes on a rampage, shouting and raging around the junkshop.

But if Teach is thoroughly broken, Don and Bob are somewhat restored and their relationship is repaired. Of the three, only Bob was never actually absorbed into the “dream.” His willingness to attempt the crime, as well as his disappointment at being replaced by Teach, was a product of his devotion to Don, not his greed. On several occasions he attempts to borrow money from both Don and Teach. Knowing of his drug problem, we assume he wants it for dope. But in the end he produces a buffalo-head nickel for Don which, we learn, he has purchased. Seeing how the previous coin has become a symbol for Don, he tries to replace it. This final act of love forces Don to see how distorted his perceptions and values had become and enables him to come to terms with his failure. Thus, a modicum of meaning and dignity is salvaged from the fiasco.

All of which may not sound like the sort of tragic insight that great drama is made of. Admittedly the three characters in this play are neither admirable nor likable, although both Don and Bob have redeeming qualities. But—and this may be the special power of such a play—the audience identifies not so much with the characters as with their situations. The world of Don’s Resale Shop is not an especially pleasant one, but, as Mamet presents it, a very real one. We feel the frustrations and fears of the characters and we can understand their inarticulate and even foolish dreams. By reducing the conflict between them to the most basic primal urges (fear, greed, frustration), reinforced by powerful cultural myths, underscored by a vivid setting and reinforced by a potent, almost incantory speech (liberally sprinkled with four-letter words) that sounds like “authentic” Chicago dialect, but has a simplicity, repetitiveness, and rhythm that is closer to dramatic verse, Mamet is able to draw us into this barren, squalid, primitive world for an impressive and lasting dramatic experience.

American Buffalo won the Drama Critics Circle Award as the best American play of the 1977 season.

The Play

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American Buffalo is set in Don’s Resale Shop in an unidentified city. The opening act unfolds on a Friday morning as Don and his gofer Bob are engaged in conversation, the importance of which the audience is not initially told. The elliptical dialogue provides the audience only with snatches of names and details that will form the basis of the subsequent action: Apparently Don has sold a buffalo-head nickel to a customer for ninety dollars and now believes that he has been swindled out of an even greater “business deal.” Bob has been sent to follow the customer to check Don’s suspicions in anticipation of a planned burglary—Don intends to steal any other coins the customer may have in his collection. Amid this conversation, Walter Cole (Teach) arrives, delivering a tirade against Ruthie, one of the many names which will trigger reactions that will illuminate the personalities of Teach, Don, and Bob. Teach’s bilious attack on Gracie and Ruthie and their alleged mistreatment of him for taking a slice of toast from Gracie’s breakfast plate underscores Teach’s temper and his latent paranoia—an instability exacerbated by Bob’s presence in Don’s junkshop.

Teach discovers that the burglary is being planned; he hopes to participate, and he further hopes to exclude the much younger Bob. Don’s avuncular regard for Bob surfaces in his vocal defense of Bob’s presence and his alleged drug habit (his “skin-pop”), and it forms the basis for the tenuous relationship among the three men. This relationship appears to be predicated on an inverted notion of business—a term which Teach and Don mention throughout the first act—and it is the business (that is, the business of the burglary) which is the act’s central concern. Bob’s initial exclusion from the business comes only after he has conducted his own personal “business” with Don by cajoling fifty dollars from him, apparently for his “skin-pop.” Subsequent dialogue between Don and Teach conveys the irrationality and vapidness of the conspiracy now being hatched.

The audience never learns the source of the relationship between Teach and Don, but Mamet hints that the dualism of business and friendship is an ambiguous component of that relationship, and it governs the remainder of the dialogue in act 1. Teach is hesitant about the inclusion of the absent Fletcher in the plans for stealing the coins from Don’s customer, and the ensuing conversation depicts the brittleness of Teach and Don’s relationship: Don argues for Fletcher’s expertise as a sentry, and Teach repeatedly defends the viability of a two-man operation. Teach acquiesces in Fletcher’s involvement and hesitantly leaves the shop as Don persists in his attempts to call Fletcher for their nocturnal robbery.

Act 2 begins at the same shop at 11:15 p.m., and the scene duplicates that which ended act 1: Don is alone in a darkened shop, holding a telephone to his ear. Bob arrives and announces that he has a buffalo-head nickel to sell to Don, with an implication that he needs the money badly. Teach arrives late and appears uneasy that Bob is in the shop. The dialogue centers on Teach’s tardiness and Bob’s return to the shop, both of which seem to endanger the planned burglary. The missing Fletcher is again nowhere to be seen and cannot be reached. Teach’s scathing response to Fletcher’s absence and Bob’s presence betrays his own indifference to the concept of loyalty and reveals that “business” is the primary aspect of his relationship with Don.

Bob attempts to sell a buffalo-head nickel to either Teach or Don and leaves the shop once he receives an undisclosed sum from Don. Teach and Don then resume their discussion of the burglary, with Teach attempting to call the proposed victim to see if he is at home. Teach’s irritation at Bob’s presence leads to his criticism of Don’s incompetence in plotting the crime. Teach’s ensuing declamation on the free enterprise system is his reaction to his earlier encounter with Gracie and Ruthie in the Riverside restaurant, to Fletcher’s absence over the course of the play, and to Bob’s apparent intrusion into Teach and Don’s relationship. For Teach, free enterprise is the freedom for any individual to pursue whatever course he chooses in order to make a profit, and that right is endangered by the possible obstacles that stand in the way of Teach’s business—the burglary.

A “fact,” as far as Teach is concerned, is whatever he says it is at the moment, and he convinces Don that Fletcher has previously cheated them in poker games and has probably done so now by preempting their burglary. Teach also suggests that Bob’s appearance with the buffalo-head nickel and Fletcher’s continued absence point inexorably to a loss of loyalty in this business relationship. With Bob’s return and his tale about Fletcher’s being in a hospital with a broken jaw, the drama reaches its climax. Neither Teach nor Don believes Bob’s story about Fletcher’s having been mugged, especially after Don’s phone call to the Masonic Hospital reveals that Fletcher is not there. Teach’s anger at Bob’s lack of loyalty to the group results in his hitting Bob on the head, causing him to bleed from his ear. A phone call interrupts Teach and Don’s interrogation of Bob—it is Ruthie, who informs Don that Fletcher has been mugged and is now in the hospital with a broken jaw. With that news, Don and Teach abandon their robbery in order to take Bob to the hospital. Their departure coincides with the dimming of the lights.

Dramatic Devices

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Mamet uses fragmented dialogue and characterization to stress the factious, insular existence of the play’s three characters. Dialogue is often obliquely uttered between the men, all of whom communicate across vast distances of space. The language, often explosive and vulgar, is used as a weapon by the various characters to give voice to inchoate rage and oppressive guilt. Bob uses vulgar language against himself in act 2 as a self-lacerating response to his own fears that he has disappointed Don. Teach’s harsh invective against Ruthie when he first arrives onstage reflects his paranoia over Ruthie’s alleged discourtesy toward him. His frequent declarations on friendship and free enterprise are defensive postures which he assumes for Don’s benefit.

The buffalo-head nickel that propels the plot is a precise, focused image of the triviality of the characters’ motivations, and it is a keen parody of the business ethic that Mamet satirizes in the play. The coin acquires several values in the play for each of the characters. For Teach, it embodies a successful enterprise, which he seems to crave as a means of restoring his sense of worth in his circle of acquaintances. For Don, it is a reflection of his failure as a businessman; he had been made to feel like a “doorman” rather than a competent participant in the business enterprise. For Bob, it is a means of proving himself to Don and reinstating himself in Don’s good graces when Bob believes that he has become an encumbrance.

The image of the buffalo itself is that of an antiquated figure—a nearly extinct, marginal figure in the modern American economy, belying its prominence earlier, in the nineteenth century. Critics have commented on the buffalo’s suitability as a symbol of the characters’ marginal presence in the urban landscape. Each is a victim of his own monetarization of relationships in which power and intimidation are the benchmarks of success. Each character falls short because of the inherent pettiness of his intentions. Through the nexus of the coin, Mamet explores the inconstant quality of the presented relationships. Teach’s relationship to Bob is inimical from the start, and his association with Don is tentative at best. The closing scene intentionally focuses on the third relationship—that between Don and Bob—and its potential for surviving the vagaries so prominent in Teach’s dealings with all of his acquaintances. In Don’s regard for Bob, Mamet portrays a more lasting, more significant association.

Historical Context

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Although written in 1975, American Buffalo premiered on Broadway in 1977, in the midst of a theater season notable for its collection of odd—and, at times, disturbing—array of new characters. The winner of that year's Pulitzer Prize, Michael Cristofer's The Shadow Box, concerns the ends of three characters' lives as they wait for the deaths that their respective terminal illnesses will bring. Albert Innaurato's The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie examines a frightening mother-son relationship, where the child is filled with food by his mother to compensate for her never having loved him. The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia, by Preston Jones, looks at old-school southern racism as seen through a bigoted fraternal order. John Bishop's The Trip Back Down follows the slow decline of a racecar driver who attempts to find victory one last time. Ashes by David Rudkin, is a theatrical yet clinical report of a miscarriage. While the season did have its all-out comedies (such as Neil Simon's California Suite, the musical Annie, and a remake of Volpone titled Sly Fox), the New York scene offered audiences a great amount of dark drama.

The 1976-77 season also saw new plays by artists with solid theatrical reputations. Tennessee Williams's Vieux Carre, may have been reminiscent of his earlier work in its evocation of a seedy New Orleans populated with troubled souls, but the show closed after only seven performances. Harold Pinter (a playwright whom Mamet has praised throughout his career) offered puzzled theatergoers No Man's Land, a play keeping in-tune with other Pinter pieces and their blend of reality and absurdity.

Despite the intensity of the season, however, few audiences and critics were prepared for the brutality and verbal violence of American Buffalo. While other plays offered studies of bisexuality (Albert Innaurato's Gemini), insanity (Pavel Kohout's Poor Murderer) and wife-swapping (Michael Stewart and Cy Coleman's / Love My Wife), Mamet's play proved to be the most shocking, primarily due to its unadulterated use of obscenity. Writing in The Best Plays of 1976-1977, Otis L. Guernsey, Jr. stated that Mamet "has mastered a verbal instrument of high quality," but Guernsey also felt that the playwright uses this instrument "to shock and alienate his audience with some of the foulest language ever heard on a stage." Thus, despite the fact that its plot is a relatively common one found in many genres, American Buffalo gained a certain notoriety for its use of honest street-talk; while this may not have been surprising in the cinema {Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Exorcist were all recent blockbusters that made great use of visual and verbal obscenity), many people still felt that the content of drama would remain more "refined." Since then, the theater world has largely accepted playwrights' use of "foul language," but in 1977 the shock was felt among audiences and critics.

Literary Style

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Setting
American Buffalo takes place in Don's Resale Shop, a secondhand "antique" store (really a junk store) run by Don Dubrow. Although Mamet's script never describes the set in any detail, the play's scenic designers have always made a point of filling the stage with as much junk as possible: Clive Barnes (writing for the New York Times) called the Broadway set "astonishing" and described it as "an agglomeration of trash that must have taken a team of assistants months to acquire." This same praise was even offered by critics who found fault with the play itself. For example, writing for the Wall Street Journal, Edwin Wilson found the play "not heavy enough" but the set to be a "triumph of clutter." The set, therefore, serves as a way for a viewer to instantly create some assumptions about the characters, specifically, that they are lower class, small-time "businessmen" who spend their days surrounded by the debris of other people's success. As Frank Rich of the New York Times stated, the junk shop is a "cage emblematic of the men's tragic sociological imprisonment."

However, the setting does more than allow Mamet's trio a space in which to scheme their robbery; it allows the playwright to highlight the notion that the characters are living in a world of metaphorical "junk." Throughout the play, Don and Teach give and receive lessons on such topics as honor, capitalism, and friendship—topics which are abandoned and left for "junk" when their robbery plan becomes threatened or when they fear they might miss their chance to make some easy money. Although they profess to have solid codes of "business" ethics, their desire to succeed pushes them into a world of moral "junk."

Symbolism
The item discussed throughout the play is a buffalo-head nickel that Don sells to a customer for ninety dollars. Deciding that the coin must be worth "five times that" because of the way the customer behaved when buying it, Don plans to rob the coin back from the customer (along with the rest of his coin collection) and sell it to another buyer for more money. Although Don and Teach's robbery is never executed, the coin remains an almost constant topic of conversation between them. Both view the nickel as a representation of the wealth for which they strive and both are certain that stealing the nickel (and the rest of the guy's coin collection) will bring them (as Don states), "real classical money."

Despite the glory they invest in it, however, the coin eventually comes to symbolize the degree to which the two men sacrifice the values in which they seem to so strongly believe at the start of the play. Like the real American buffalo, their friendship, ethics, and trust in each other vanishes—and, again like the real American buffalo, these things vanish due to an increasing fervor for riches and power. The beauty of the buffalo herd and the bonds of friendship are alike in their falling prey to capitalism and Teach's definition of "free enterprise:" "The freedom ... of the Individual ... To Embark on Any Fucking Course that he sees fit ... In order to secure his honest chance to make a profit." As he tries to explain this to Don, Teach echoes one of Mamet' s authorial concerns:"The country's founded on this."

Dialogue
While all playwrights employ dialogue as their primary artistic tool, Mamet is exceptional in that his dialogue often hides—or reveals—a character's true thoughts or attitudes toward the subject at hand. The dialogue in American Buffalo is representative of Mamet's work in that it is highly fragmentary, filled with asides and pauses, and captures the rhythms and nuances found in everyday speech. Comparing the play's dialogue to elevator music, Newsweek's Jack Kroll noted Mamet's ability to capture "the dissonant din of people yammering at each other and not connecting."

While the characters do talk to each other, they are just as often talking at each other as well, trying to bluff and sound their partners by using seemingly innocuous phrases. For example, when Teach fears that Don and Bob are concocting a robbery scheme without him, he tries to "nonchalantly" learn about it through a "simple" conversation in which Don does everything to avoid revealing his scheme.

In this conversation, Teach uses words in the same way a person uses a metal-detector on a beach: as the prospector searches for valuable metals, Teach probes his friend's mind to learn whether or not he has been cheated out of his "shot." Both Teach and a prospector hope to find something valuable: a nugget of gold or the plan Don has hatched with "the kid." Don tries to steer him away from the topic by asking him if he has enough money in his meter and being purposefully vague; Mamet's placement of pauses pinpoint when a character is formulating his next attempt to seek out or conceal information. A reader should also note that the lines in parentheses are meant to mark (according to Mamet), "a slight change of the outlook on the part of the speaker—perhaps a momentary change to a more introspective regard." While other playwrights offer actors and readers numerous parenthetical adverbs before lines to suggest how they should be said, Mamet asks the actors and readers to consider each speaker's "conversational goal" and how—using only the most common words—he will try to achieve it. Once this is understood, the inflection and tone of each line should become more clear.

Media Adaptations

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American Buffalo was adapted as a film in 1996, starring Dustin Hoffman as Teach, Dennis Franz as Don, and Sean Nelson as Bob. Mamet wrote the screenplay and Michael Corrente directed. It is available from Samuel Goldwyn Home Video.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources

Barnes, Clive, "Stage: Skilled 'American Buffalo'" in the New York Time's, February 17, 1977.

Beaufort, John, Review of American Buffalo in the Christian Science Monitor, February 23, 1977.

Billington, Michael, Review of American Buffalo in the Guardian, June 29, 1978.

Gale, Stephen H., "David Mamet: The Plays, 1972-1980" in Essays on Contemporary American Drama, Max Huber, 1981, pp. 207-23.

Guernsey, Otis L. Jr., Editor, The Best Plays of 1976-1977, Dodd, Mead, 1977, p. 14.

Jones, Nesta and Steven Dykes, File on Mamet, Methuen Drama, 1991, pp. 20-29.

Kissel, Howard, Review of American Buffalo in Women's Wear Daily, February 17, 1977.

Kroll, Jack, "The Muzak Man" in Newsweek, February 28, 1977.

Lahr, John, "Fortress Mamet" in the New Yorker, November 17, 1997, pp. 70-82.

Lewis, Patricia and Terry Browne, "David Mamet" in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 7, Twentieth Century American Dramatists, Gale (Detroit), 1981, pp. 63-70.

Luckett, Perry,"David Mamet" in Magill's Critical Survey of Drama. Volume 3, Salem Press, 1985, pp. 1234-37.

Mamet, David, American Buffalo, Grove, 1976.

Mamet, David, Passage from interview in New Theatre Quarterly, February, 1988.

Mamet, David, Interview in the London Time, June 19, 1978.

Porterfield, Christopher, "David Mamet's Bond of Futility" in Time, February 28, 1977.

Probst, Leonard, Review of American Buffalo for NBC-TV, February 16, 1977.

Wardle, Irving, Review of American Buffalo, in the London Times, June 29, 1978.

Watt, Douglas, "Stuck in a Junk Shop" in the Daily News, February 17, 1977.

Wilson, Edwin, "A Phlegmatic American Buffalo" in the Wall Street Journal, February 23, 1977.

Further Reading
Bigsby, C.W.E. and Christopher Bigsby, Modern American Drama, 1945-1990, Cambridge, 1992. This book offers a survey of American theatrical trends since World War II.

Dean, Anne, David Mamet: Language As Dramatic Action, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990. This book offers an overview of Mamet's career, including analysis on such famous works as American Buffalo and Glengarry Glen Ross.

Kernan, Alvin B., Editor, The Modern American Theater, Prentice-Hall, 1967. Although Mamet is not examined in this collection of essays, Kernan's introductory essay is an overview of American theater containing several points that could easily be applied to Mamet's work.

Mamet, David, True and False: Common Sense for the Actor, Pantheon Books, 1997. This short book is Mamet's guide to acting, which may prove useful when trying to imagine how scenes in his work are meant to be performed.

Bibliography

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Sources for Further Study

Almansi, Guido. “David Mamet, a Virtuoso of Invective.” In Critical Angles: European Views of Contemporary American Literature, edited by Marc Chenetier. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.

Barbera, Jack. “Ethical Perversity in America: Some Observations on David Mamet’s American Buffalo.” Modern Drama 24 (September, 1981): 270-275.

Bigsby, C. W. E. David Mamet. London: Methuen, 1985.

Carroll, Dennis. David Mamet. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1987.

Gottlieb, Richard. “The ’Engine’ That Drives David Mamet.” New York Times, January 15, 1978, p. 4.

Savran, David. “David Mamet.” In In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988.

Schlueter, June, and Elizabeth Fosyth. “America as Junkshop: The Business Ethic in David Mamet’s American Buffalo.” Modern Drama 26 (December, 1983): 492-500.

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