Sam Shepherd's play "Buried Child" is at the Waldron Arts Center in a co-production of Detour Productions and the Bloomington Area Arts Council. It is a strange piece of work. Most of the time it seems like a piece of gritty midwestern family realism, but every now and then I found myself wondering if all or part of the cast were supposed to be aliens. In the hands of the fine cast directed by Joe Gaines they are pretty fascinating offworlders, but not very intelligent or benevolent creatures.
A son, Vincent, played by Daniel Petrie, and his recent girl friend, Shelly, Stephanie Harrison, come home for a visit. Shelly says that she'd expected something like apple pie and a happy family, but the man that Vincent thinks is his grandfather refuses to recognize him as does his own father and his brother.
The whole family seems stuck in some sort of time warp. There appears to be some sort of past event that has them all partially paralyzed. The grandfather, played with wonderful fullness by Mark McIntyre, is dying. He has little or no future, and refuses to acknowledge or review the past. Vincent's father, done with a great authenticity by Steve Heise, has somehow lost any but the bluntest set of feelings and grasp of his own history. Vincent's brother, Bradley, played with an almost exuberant viciousness by Mike Price, is physically maimed but seems to be the most conscious secret-keeper.
Vincent's mother, Hallie, Mary Reardon, is as solidly blocked about the secret as anyone. She seems to think that she's playing the mother entertaining gentlemen callers in "The Glass Menagerie" but she at least knows the family history and can recognize Vincent. Her single gentleman caller is a local minister played by Jim Hetmer.
Sam Shepherd's "Buried Child" is a rich and fascinating play. The characters are detailed and dynamic. The speeches are wonderfully put together. The cast does a really good job of making the language sing. Throughout there's a sort of off-kilter quality that kept me involved and guessing. It's a good piece of theatre in a solid production with a very strong cast.
The Detour Production of Sam Shepherd's "Buried Child" has its final two performances this Friday and Saturday at eight at the Waldron Arts Center.