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As Long as We Remember...

November 9, 2011

A REVIEW: MET Rides High

Roy Meachum

To put it simply: the Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s version of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” is the best production I’ve seen in Frederick. It’s in the running for the best production I’ve ever reviewed and that includes Broadway, the Kennedy Center, Washington’s National Theatre, Arena Stage and Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre – since 1965 when I first sat on the aisle as a critic.


But director Peter Wray is blessed with the formidable player, Jeff Keilholtz, whom I’ve raved about before. The third man in the acting trio holds up very well; Clayton Myers bravely accepted the role of nincompoop. His character serves as buffoon and guilty accessory in the attempt to lift an antique nickel — the “American Buffalo” — from an unseen mark who is referred to frequently.


Tad Janes delivers strength I was not prepared for. He founded MET, which first rented the upper room from Alicia L. fashion boutique. I may not have seen the very first show at West Patrick’s Cultural Arts Center; the company moved lock, stock, makeup and business operations next door to the venerated Francis Scott Key Hotel’s basement. But I’ve been tracking the MET from the start. The initial productions I found unsatisfactory. Even after they moved up the street, it was touch and go. So much so, I failed to catch last year’s hit, “The 25th Anniversary of the Putnam County Spelling Bee.”


Electrified by Jeff Keilholtz shenanigans, sprightly comedy “Boeing Boeing” glued me to a seat for the rest of the season; the entire company performed up to the level of the opening show. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I witnessed Tad Janes’ progress.


To say the least, he stood as a bellowing and threatening rock while his fellow actor did magical nonsense: mouthing inanities, jumping up and down on whatever furniture is available and electrifying another Met production. There can be no doubt his shenanigans and Mamet’s lines make the character the top star of the play. The part was originated by Al Pacino on the New York stage; it went to Dustin Hoffman for the film.


Tad Janes’ junk store owner is no slouch. In the Met founder’s hands he gives almost as much as he gets, thrusting his mighty jaw to make several points. He flourishes as an actor. “Bravo!” must be raised to “Bravissimo!” There’s no higher praise possible.


“American Buffalo” sticks around the former Hotel Francis Scott Key Hotel’s undercroft until Sunday, November 20, but only on weekends. You’ll hate yourself if you miss out on the combination of Tad Janes, Jeff Keilholtz and Clayton Myers’ wondrous interpretation of David Mamet’s masterpiece.


But be warned: the dialogue sometimes slips into language that could make an old salt’s ears perk up.


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