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LA Theater Review

Stealing Buffalo

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To quote a certain playwright, "There's business and there's friendship." Now, we don't want to get anyone in trouble, so let's just say "Stealing Buffalo" is based on a clever conceit in which a perfectly competent actor named Jed dreams of producing and starring in a production of a certain now-classic play about the sale of a coin, written by someone whose name sounds like, oh, Bavid Namet.

For 25 years, all Jed has wanted to do is act—and score a few chicks. His buddy Stu, also an actor, is a stress eater who apparently has seen quite a bit of stress in his day. When we meet them, they are in Stu's apartment, pressing each other's buttons. Stu is a noob with women, Jed a wuss with Samuel French. Jed has wanted the rights to "American Buffalo," but he has been turned down by no less than big Dave, who told him, "When the theatergoing public comes back to Los Angeles, I will allow my plays to be done."

Reflecting a real-life struggle, "Stealing Buffalo" is the handiwork of writers Craig Ricci Shaynak and Vern Urich, who also star as, respectively, Stu and Jed. Urich is a solid actor, and although he is probably playing a heightened—or lowered—version of himself, he creates a clearly recognizable and surprisingly empathetic character. Shaynak, perhaps too close to his material, comes across as more standup than Stanislavsky, albeit a skilled standup.

The script includes touches of magical realism that simultaneously puzzle the viewer and enhance the storytelling. The intermission in this 75-minute play serves no purpose, followed by a very long slide montage during which the actors could have changed costumes twice over. Other than that, there's joy and verve to this production that will easily resonate with actors, employed or otherwise. Enhancing the theatergoing experience, a slide-show trivia quiz provides preshow entertainment for the audience. 

To quote a bit of "American Buffalo," there's business and there's friendship. Shaynak and Urich apparently struck a fine balance in creating their play, nearly stealing our hearts in the process.

Presented by the Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. Feb. 5–Mar. 6. Sat., 5 p.m.; Sun., 6 p.m. (818) 700-4878. www.thegrouprep.com.

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