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From August through December, several local theater companies present the first Political Theatre Festival of St. Louis, a program of plays specifically chosen for their political content. The idea is to use the arts, specifically the stage, to get people talking and thinking about how politics factors into daily life. And yes, the timing of the festival leading into the midterm elections is no coincidence. The cast and crews of these companies are presenting an alternative to what passes for political discourse in the mass-media age. Instead of paid pundits and talking heads arguing from a list of talking points on the topic of economic reform, consider the view of subsistence-level economics presented in David Mamet's American Buffalo, as performed by the NonProphet Theatre Company. A trio of have-nots plots the theft of a rare coin; in the back room of a junk shop, these would-be hoods are dreaming of a payout in the thousands of dollars. A drop in the bucket for corporate America, but a life-changing windfall for lower-class working stiffs. How far they're willing to take this crime speaks not so much to their desperation as to their alienation from society. American Buffalo is performed at the Jewish Community Center (2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur; 314-752-5075 or at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday (August 17 to 27). Tickets are $12 to $15; for other performances in the Political Theatre Festival, visit
Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays. Starts: Aug. 17. Continues through Aug. 27