American Buffalo by David Mamet

American Buffalo is a superb example of just how much tension can be created with a minimal cast and a limited location. Admittedly, Dustin Hoffman and Dennis Franz give a convincing performance with an incredible amount of depth, which is something that one might not get from a script alone.

Suspicion abounds as Donny and ‘Teach’ plan a robbery, with Donny’s hapless sidekick Bobby thrown into the fold as a victim of mistrust. American Buffalo builds vivid pictures of those ‘off stage’ as well as on, and suggests that those who mistrust are not to be trusted. Tense and evocative, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for the duration.

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November by David Mamet

I read November at a timely moment in history: Barack Obama was shortly to be elected as America’s first black president.

Farcical and satirical, November is a snapshot of a desperate president at the end of his first term, manically identifying any and every ploy he can to win the vote and be re-elected. Sadly, political commentary (especially that includes such morally dubious characters) leaves me feeling somewhat desperate, and thus is normally something to avoid. Fortunately, though, November manages to be light and comic enough to avoid inducing a feeling of powerlessness and paranoia. I particularly liked the wife, who is not seen, but calls occasionally to ask questions about what she can keep, showing an obvious lack of faith in her worm of a husband.

The comedy because a little unbelievable toward the end, which an exploding turkey and an assassination attempt using a poisoned blow-dart, but thinking optimistically, perhaps this is because humour is often an effective way to tackle serious issues.