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Theatre / American Buffalo

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American Buffalo is a three-man play by David Mamet, adapted into a 1996 film starring Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz, and Sean Nelson. The story follows Don, Teach, and Bobby, a trio of ne'er-do-wells who are plotting to steal another man's rare coin collection. As the time of the heist approaches, tensions rise, and the would-be robbers start to mistrust and turn on each other.

This work provides examples of:


  • Addled Addict: Bobby is often played as this; this was mostly removed from the film adaptation given Sean Nelson's age, but Teach still throws out a line implying Bobby is more or less a Functional Addict.
  • Arc Words: Business.
  • Butt-Monkey: Bobby, who never gets his change to succeed in business and ends the play getting a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from Teach.
  • Central Theme: The relationship between friendship and business.
  • The Dragon: Teach, to Don. Borders on Dragon-in-Chief given Teach's Control Freak tendencies.
  • Foreshadowing: The characters debate about whether it's going to rain later (it does).
  • The Ghost: Fletcher, Ruthie, and Grace are often discussed, but never appear. Neither does the guy with the coin collection.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Al Pacino originated the role of Teach on Broadway, which should tell you something about the character.
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  • He-Man Woman Hater: Teach has some major woman issues. He's also the only character in the play to use words like bitch, dyke, and cunt.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After trashing Don's shop in a rage, Teach advises Don to clean up the place.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Bobby is driven by a constant need for Donny's approval.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Teach is constantly patronising both Bobby and Don with advice on business and acts with a bravado that suggests he believes he is a Consummate Professional career criminal, when it is clear through most of the play that he in fact has no clue what he's doing.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Donny after Teach's assault on Bobby.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Bobby, who is new to the resale shop and wants to do whatever he can to impress Bobby.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Bobby, Teach, and Don, respectively.
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  • Parental Substitute: Donny serves as a surrogate father to Bobby.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: They never end up robbing the guy.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Don and Teach, but especially Teach. It is a David Mamet play.
  • Stupid Crooks: The cast consists of them.
  • Team Mom: Don spends a lot of time encouraging the others to eat more healthily and take naps.
  • Villain Protagonist: All three characters, who are low-lifes trying to hustle their way into the American Dream.
  • Villainous BSoD: Teach upon finding out that his and Don's planning was All for Nothing.
  • Villains Out Shopping: The whole play is three low-lifes eating, discussing random minutiae, and talking about committing a crime.
  • Wham Line: "Donny, I missed him!" Bobby made up the story about the customer with the suitcase to prevent Donny from being disappointed in him for failing to keep tabs on him.