For “American Buffalo,” which premiered on Broadway in 1977, Mamet devised a theatrical equivalent of those films’ harsh erotic images. It’s the dominant language that gives depth to his characters: a grocery store owner, his poker friend, and a shadowy assistant. (In this season’s revival, directed by Neil Pepe, they’re played by Laurence Fishburne, Sam Rockwell, and Darren Criss.) When the three plan to rob a client’s valuable coin, Mamet ends up end their littleness with someone as great as Shakespeare, deploying a vulgar vernacular that sounds like empty verse after a year in the sewers.
For all its linguistic inventions, there’s nothing officially out of the ordinary about “American Buffalo”; in fact, it’s almost classic. The theme is also not new. But in the decades that followed, thanks in part to the continued advancement of feminism and liberation, playwrights were able to center formerly taboo subjects without needing to sensationalize. they. At the same time, the naturalism that had dominated the American mainstream scene since the ’50s was beginning to loosen its grip.
“How I Learned to Drive,” by Paula Vogel, exemplifies both parts of that change. Its subject matter was the sexual harassment, which began at the age of 11, by a girl called Li’l Bit by her uncle Peck. From there, the play approaches in many unexpected directions, including Li’l Bit’s conflict over (and her family’s complicity) over the abuse. These things are still shocking to this day.
But it is also creative autobiography, drawing on elements of all theatrical movements that preceded it. Acknowledging its own form, as “The Skin of Our Teeth” did, it is narrated by Li’l Bit as a memory, but the sequence is not chronological; a Greek chorus that comments on the action and plays minor roles. The connection between scenes is the kind you find not in neat outlines but in dreams.
One result of that ethereal quality is that “How I Learned to Drive” defies conclusions, leaving the door open for reinvention. You can imagine the roles of anyone, regardless of age – and indeed, this spring production brings together the director (Mark Brokaw) and stars (Mary-Louise Parker and David Morse) in the 1997 premiere of the play. How will a story about the meaning of adulthood change when its main actors are 25 years old?
“How I Learned to Drive” is the only one of this season’s revivals that hasn’t previously appeared on Broadway. (It was originally played on Off Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre.) It’s certainly a classic, though; a commercial production would not be the test of its lifespan. But for newer productions, such as Richard Greenberg’s 2002 “Take Me Out,” the first Broadway revival is partly an opportunity to see if a second season is likely.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/theater/broadway-plays-revivals.html ‘Plaza Suite’ and other Broadway revivals glimpse our theatrical past