Justin Robinson (Bobby) and Brian Zoldessy (Teach) on the set of American Buffalo opening May 6.
28 years ago I was 28 years too young to play the part of Donny Durbrow in David Mamet's American Buffalo. But I did. It was terrible. There were so many things wrong with that production, me among them.
I won't mention where it was or who directed it or the other actors names or the directors “concept.” But, I should have known from the start that casting me, a 23 year old, in that role was a bad idea. But I was 23, a newly minted college graduate with a degree in theater, and very eager. What did I know?
It actually drove me away from doing theater for a while. It spooked me.
Flash forward. I've had a long a varied (and somewhat successful) career in the performing arts. But I have a “real job” now so I can actually make a living. I still perform, mostly as a singer/songwriter. But I really don't have much time to devote to theater. Because that's what it takes – devotion. Rehearsals can be long and arduous. And there's lots of outside “bookwork” that needs to be done. Memorization.
My memory is not great. But a few years ago I decided that I would take on small rolls every couple of years because one, I enjoy being in plays and, two, it's a good way exercise my memory in new ways. All the research shows that you've got to keep your mind active as you age to keep it supple and working well. Mental exercise for the mind is like physical exercise for the body.
So, here I am, 28 years beyond college, and the opportunity to play Donny comes up again. It's with people that I trust, admire and respect in theater. The location is convenient. So, I accepted the role.
OK. It's one thing to exercise my memory. But I believe I am giving my memory a heart attack.
Donny is not a small role. There are only 3 characters in the play. Mine never leaves the stage for the entire two acts. When I finished highlighting all of my lines, there wasn't much white space left. I finally am, as we say, off book. But it kind of makes my head hurt.
It is a pleasure to work with the brilliant actor and director Brian Zoldessy. Brian works full time at Tri-C east as the head of the Theater Department. But if my brain is having a heart attack, I can't imagine what Brian is going through. Most people who act and direct don't do them all in the same show. Brian is directing this production. He's also playing Teach, a huge role. I must say, he's doing both brilliantly.
I think it'll be worth checking out. Brian is terrific. I feel good in the role – I am, at least, in the correct demographic. And the very talented Justin Robinson, a Tri-C student, is playing Bobby.
There are only 6 performances. The Studio Theater only has 45 seats. Tickets are only $10.00.
Don't bring the kids. It is Mamet. The play is typical Mamet slice-of-life theater, which means the language is crude and the content is of an adult nature. Probably R rated. But Mamet is a good writer and nothing is gratuitous.
28 years after I nearly scared myself out of doing theater forever, I get to exorcise some demons. It's a rare second chance, and the role of a lifetime.
Call 216-987-2438 for reservations.