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BWW Reviews: BURIED CHILD Makes for a Trying Visit to a Slice of Demented Americana


Buried Child/written by Sam Shepard/directed by Bryan Rasmussen/Whitefire Theatre /thru October 11, 2014

Close to three hours of crazy behavior, with doses of disgusting, despicable action mixed in, make for an extremely intense, but trying evening experiencing The WhiteFire Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child. Bryan Rasmussen has directed his committed and talented cast to play the crazy of their respective characters. Fortunately for the audience, Leon Russom reaches beyond this straight forward direction and provides his Dodge as a full three-dimensional human being complete with flaws, dementia, and occasional bouts of clarity and wit. Dodge, in the now-winter years of his life, drifts in and out of reality. With his lucidity so sharp, his madness makes it all the more heartbreaking. Living with him in their run-down Middle America farmhouse, his wife Halie just rattles on and on... As totally inhabited by Jacque Lynn Colton, Halie's really in no better position to be the caretaker in this relationship, although Halie seems to have more of her wits about her. David Fraioli and Cris D'Annunzio staunchly portray Tilden and Bradley, their two grown sons, mentally-challenged due to an plethora of reasons. Fraioli's Tilden's sadly pathetic, while D'Annunzio's Bradley's menacingly vile.

All these craziness upon craziness drags through three long acts of torturous pacing. A welcomed respite from this languidness, the surprise arrival of Dodge and Halie's grandson Vince with Shelly, his newly-acquired girlfriend. Zachary Mooren gives his prodigal grandson role a heart, with a needed jolt of vitality to the somber proceedings, but with suspicious motives for visiting after all these years. What exactly is Vince doing rummaging through Halie's vanity dresser? Looking for memories? Or casing for loot?

Tonya Cornelisse, as the only other three-dimensional character of this piece, nails Shelly's initial carefree enthusiasm for meeting Vince's family. She effortlessly alternates between being indifferent coyness and alluring flirtation in dealing with both Dodge and her boyfriend's father Tilden. In the extremely uncomfortable encounter with Bradley, Cornelisse convinces as the terrified, powerless victim who ultimately turns the tables on her attacker. Cornelisse's Shelly and Russom's Dodge are the two you root for in this cast of horrid insane people.

And then there's the wimpy, spineless Father Dewis (played by Grant Smith). He comes home with Halie in the third act carrying a bouquet of yellow roses with a handy flask of booze in his pocket. Is he courting Dodge's wife for the Lord? Or for himself?

Good detailed living room set by Christopher Tulysewski (especially for a small equity-waiver theatre with no working air conditioning). Dimly lit platform atop a flight of stairs suggests Halie's vanity space. Effective sound effects by DJ Lesh set the initial moods for each act.

This production of Buried Child, one of the darkest dramas I've seen in recent seasons, would make a visit to the psycho ward in Cuckoo's Nest seem like an inviting afternoon tea party.

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