|Ed Harris, Paul Sparks |
Photo: Monique Carboni
Into this menage comes Vince, Tilden's son, with his girlfriend Shelly. Shelly is from another world; she finds even the simple word "grampa" hysterically funny. She enters the house with a Norman Rockwell fantasy that is shattered within seconds. Vince too has his expectations dashed, since none of his relatives recognize him.
As with all family plays, fights are fought and secrets are told, but in Buried Child the truth remains elusive, and redemption is not on the menu.
Buried Child is a vividly written, deeply unpleasant play that is in turns entertaining and disturbing, and always thought- and emotion-provoking. The New Group production (at the Signature Theatre) has the tremendous advantage of Ed Harris as Dodge. I wish the other performances were up to his subtle, real, weirdly beautiful turn. Not that the others are bad--in fact, most are excellent. However, under Scott Elliot's uneven direction, they sometimes seem to be in different plays, and it was Ed Harris' version I wanted to see.
While the audience with which I saw Buried Child was largely well-behaved, a couple behind me talked through much of the play, mostly at the "huh?" and "what's happening?" level of conversation. I don't want to be judgmental, so I'll avoid adjectives here and just write what happened. At the end of the play, when Tilden appears with the skeleton of his infant child, clearly dug up from the backyard, a moment of deep theatrical silence, one of the couple blurted, loudly, "Is it a monkey?" My friend and I laughed, but in reality, it was a very sad moment of theatre-going.
end of spoiler
Buried Child, which is a three-act play, is presented here without intermission, allowing no respite from the intensity. It's an effective decision; if not for the concentration-shattering comment of the couple in back of me late in the play, I don't think I would have breathed for the last five minutes.
(press ticket, row K center)