REVIEW: Buried Child

If you’ve not seen BURIED CHILD and haven’t read any spoilers, let me bring you up to speed.  It is indeed about – at least partially – a child buried in the backyard.  But oh, is it about so much more than that.

Sam Shepard, American playwright, has crafted an interesting, albeit long and a little drawn out story of an American family in three acts.  Director Ed Stern chose to break them up into two segments around an intermission.  I must confess that after an extraordinary long week of work in my non-theatre life I was unable to stick out Act Three and so I left at intermission. I will review what I did see.

Bruce Cromer, (“Dodge”) certainly our region’s most physical actor, manages to exude his usual energy while stationed almost exclusively on a couch.  As the play opens and he interacts with an off-stage Regina Pugh’s “Halie” he gets big laughs and sets the stage for this tragedy.  We meet their oldest son, “Tilden,” played by the impressive Sam Martini.  Martini gives a restrained performance, making his work at the end of the first half of the production really pop.  Middle brother, “Bradley,” played by a terrifying Aiden Dalton is a bully and mean-spirited.  When Tilden’s son, “Vince” (Henry Eden) and his girlfriend (the believable Holland Taylor) arrive, things start to move from surreal to dark.  The pace, which to this point has been almost plodding, picks up a touch.

The impressive set and light design by Joe Beumer transforms the stage (and you are quite literally on the stage with the actors) into a 1960s rural home, including the exterior.  Maggie Dick’s costumes accurately reflect the era, while Kevin Semancik’s eerie sound design reminds us that some of what’s going on here is other-worldly.  Props were designed by Cat Sholtis, Micah Price and Andrew Leonard.

I don’t know that anyone really likes a play such as this; it’s sad, it’s dark, and it’s at times very hard to watch.  But Cromer and Pugh (and Stephen Skiles, too!) on stage acting with these young, talented performers is an unforgettable experience.

BURIED CHILD has one more performance on Saturday, February 17th at 7:30pm.  Next for Xavier Theatre is THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES next weekend followed by CABARET in April.  Click here for more information.