Buried Child | Muddy Waters Theatre

Muddy Waters Theatre spares no violence: broken glass; sweaty, half-naked bodies; and things dug out of the dirt.


By Sam Shepard
Directed by Milt Zoth

Muddy Waters Theatre's recent production of Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Buried Child, left little—if anything—to be desired.

The peculiar, haunting ruin of this Illinois family-their secrets, delusional reality, unimaginable future-unfolded powerfully, gaining momentum at every turn. The two ten-minute intermissions, not noted in the program but mentioned by ushers, provided a needed break from the intensity of the action (and the swelter of the un-air-conditioned theater).

The world of the characters was held together by the commentary of the relatively reliable patriarch of the family, Dodge, as the dysfunction of the family slowly became apparent. The true extent of the disease surrounding the sick old man, his aging socialite wife, their befuddled and bullying sons, not to mention the dead family members, doesn't become truly apparent until shown in the foreign light of visitors who may as well have been from another planet.

Kevin Beyer gave a wonderfully nuanced performance as Dodge, giving the audience a crusty old man who at any moment appeared either a bit more or a bit less sane than he really might have been. Sally Eaton, as Halie, Dodge's wife, was creepily out of touch with the lives of the men who shared her home. David Wassilak presented an eerily innocent Tilden, their son, like a nearly mute prophet in an asylum. Marissa Barbeau was feisty as Shelly, the one person in the household not related by blood. Jason Garrison was also notable as Vince, the long-lost grandson come home, especially in his transformation, brought on by his long-lost family's rejection.

The set, designed by Mark Wilson, gave the impression of more of a shack than a home, and was perfectly aligned with the emotional content of the play, right down to the trash and dust hiding under the dilapidated couch. Milt Zoth's direction made good use of the stage, although a few lines of dialogue were lost when characters were offstage or slumped on the floor.

Muddy Waters Theatre spares no violence: broken glass; sweaty, half-naked bodies; and things dug out of the dirt are not shied away from. This barely restrained, aggressive energy, which I associate with Muddy Waters productions, came together for maximum emotional impact with Buried Child, thanks to a talented cast and director.

Muddy Waters Theatre presents the work of one playwright each season. The 2006-2007 season will feature Arthur Miller.

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