Few would compare David Mamet’s plays with the Three Stooges.
But Ken Beider does.
Beider is executive director of Speak the Speech Theatre, which opens Mamet’s “American Buffalo” next week.
“It’s an absurdist comedy,” says Beider about the play that tells of the struggle of loyalty among three thieves as they plan a bank heist in 1970s Chicago. They sit and plan the robbery, waiting for the right moment to make a move. It never comes.
Traditionally, the characters have been “played as hard-asses and criminals,” says Beider. “But I see it more as the three stooges.”
Beider said these three knuckleheads aren’t very bright, and they don’t even know they’re inept, which is why they continue to plan for something that quite obviously won’t happen.
The company’s artistic director, Dan Reichel, wasn’t sure Tucson was ready for Mamet, who often fills his play with coarse language and adult themes. But ultimately he decided the play showcases loyalty, friendship, business and politics, all of which resonate in today’s world.
“All three of these guys like each other on a certain level and they admire certain things about one another, but they’re all three ready to screw the other one over for their benefit,” Reichel says.
Reichel says the play has passion, intrigue and intellect mixed with an absurdist flavor. It’s the kind of theater Reichel and Beider want to present.
“We had our problems with typical Tucson theater and we wanted to do something that was more exciting and jarring to push audiences to push themselves,” says Beider who is also acting in the play.
Mamet salts his script with vulgarities, which can make his works difficult for some.
But Beider points out that Shakespeare did as well. In addition, Mamet’s style of language has become more common on the stage.
“David Mamet uses real language,” Reichel said. “There’s no poetry in his language in the usual way, but there is real rhythm and cadence.”
Beider says the script reminds him of an iceberg, with so much happening right under the surface.
“It’s a challenge,” Beider said. But if done right, he adds, “it’s almost like (the audience is) peeking through a keyhole and looking at real life.”