Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City
Taking place entirely in a jail cell near Yellowstone National Park, “The Buffalo Play” tells the story of a Woman (Ciara Griffin) as she is visited by the vision of a buffalo (Kendra Potter), after having just taken a baby buffalo and put it in her car because she thought it looked cold. This eventually leads to the baby being rejected by the heard and having to be euthanized. The Woman and the Buffalo discuss life and nature and the morality of human interference. Combing realistic and abstract elements, this new play by Ciara Griffin and Kendra Potter, explores human’s relationship with wildlife and our internal connections to the nature around us.
“The Buffalo Play” takes inspiration from a similar event, where a father and son put a baby bison into their car because they thought it was cold. Griffin and Potter decide to swap out the father and son duo for a young female activist-like character. Despite the Woman at times feeling like a caricature of that kind of person, this was a good decision. This allowed the play to focus on one of it’s many questions even deeper. This being the question of “How do we know when we should interfere to help and when we should just leave things alone?” A very important question, without a clear answer, and thankfully the play doesn’t try to give us one.
The performances are all very well done. Ciara Griffin as the Woman brought a sort of compelling optimism and naivety that pulls you over to her side more than once. You truly see that she was trying to help and you want her to be ok but you know what she did was foolish and misguided. Kendra Potter’s Buffalo provides the other side, insisting that she should have just left nature alone and that if the baby buffalo was eaten by a coyote, that was just nature at work. Potter captures the mannerisms and mindset of an animal perfectly. Her many questions about the Woman’s talk of all of the rituals and habits of humans really put into perspective how meaningless some of it all is and that nature has been functioning without it for millennia. Another stand out was Jeremy Sher as Hank. Sher played a farmer who is put in jail for drunk driving and clashes with the Woman immediately, having differences in politics and ideology, though through the course of the play, the two come together, along with the vision of Potter’s buffalo, to try and answer some of the complex questions this play asks.
“The Buffalo Play” asked many compelling questions and had good performances all around. Aside from the occasional young-activist stereotype line it was a very well-written and engaging story with a strangely beautiful ending that I don’t want to give away here. You’ll definitely walk out of the theatre feeling a little more connected to the world around you.
“The Buffalo Play” was written by Ciara Griffin and Kendra Potter.
It was directed by Mason Wagner.
It features: Ciara Griffin, Kendra Potter, Jeremy Sher, Sukha Belle Potter, and Cecila Lynn-Jacobs, Peter Musante, and Kelly Bouma as the News Voices.
It featured sound design by Peter Musante, costume design by Sarah Kelly, projections by Marshall Granger, and lighting by Mason Wagner.
It runs May 8-23 at The Tank (312 W 36th St, New York, NY 10018)
For more information go to: https://www.thetanknyc.org/the-buffalo-play