Buried Child at TheatreWorks 

What if everything you believe about you, your family, your country, and everything else is just a half-buried memory and lies? It's a recurring theme in plays by the actor, cowboy poet, filmmaker, and sometimes drummer Sam Shepard, who died earlier this year. It's one that winds in and out of his Pulitzer-winning Buried Child, opening at TheatreWorks this week.

With an ear for vernacular, taste for the absurd, and a gift for penning intense dialogue that plays out at the edge of slapstick, Shepard's work ranges from bizarre Twilight Zone scenarios to epic American tragedies about broken homes, broken people, endless war, and a primal urge for new frontiers. This week, New Moon, an ambitious company that's delivered jarring productions of Tracy Letts' Bug and Killer Joe, turns its attention to Shepard. Buried Child is about a dysfunctional, dishonest, and partially dismembered family whose secrets come crawling out of the ground when grandson Vince brings his girlfriend Shelly home to meet the folks.

click to enlarge Buried Child
  • Buried Child

"You know New Moon has done the zombie plays, and we did Frankenstein," Buried Child director Gene Elliott says, describing his company's dedication to great scripts and Halloween-season thrills. "But unless you want to do the same stuff over and over, there's only so much of that available. But when you start looking at plays that are just really creepy, there's a whole lot more to choose from. And a lot of that stuff is really good.

"Buried Child's got a little something to make everybody uncomfortable," Elliott says. "And it's so funny."

Elliott directs a top-shelf cast that includes Stephen Garret, Emily Peckham, Mersadies Burch, and James Dale Green as the sickly, couch-bound patriarch Dodge.

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