BWW Review: Humanity Shines in a Graveyard in DEAD AND BURIED at Dreamcatchers Repertory Theatre

BWW Review: Humanity Shines in a Graveyard in DEAD AND BURIED at Dreamcatchers Repertory Theatre

There is nothing indifferent about death. It is vicious, uncompromising, and a stinging reminder of how precious life should be. So it feels strange that James McLindon's Dead and Buried, currently playing at Dreamcatchers Repertory Theatre, meanders so casually around the subject. The story centers around hardened 18-year-old Perdue - a foster child in search of her felony-ridden birthmother. New to town and desperately in need of a job to support herself, she marches into the local graveyard and convinces Bid, the gruff-but-with-a-heart-of-gold manager, to hire her. Thus begins a friendship/mentorship of sorts that burgeons into a lesson - sometimes, you have to stop looking for what you want to find what you need. Death, that ever-popular looming metaphor, serves as an atmospheric backdrop that can't quite decide how seriously we should consider it.

For in Dead and Buried, death has three significant faces. The traumatizing horror that is slaughter and blood and gore. The blasé comedy of it all, which inevitably emerges from working around corpses all day. And a wide-eyed child-like awe of something eternal, unknowable and completely fascinating. This last image of death, embodied by Bid's wide-eyed assistant Robbie, is the most rewarding.

While tackling the dire destruction and macabre humor of death is heart-wrenching and true, it is worn-out ground. What pierces through here - and it does find its way through the dramatic clouds - is the redemptive quality of awe. For to Robbie, the jokes and even the painful past all seems manageable because it is a mystery in the cycle of life. There's something to being able to look at death in wonder. We strive to prevent it when it's not necessary, we mourn it when it's unpreventable, but we continue because there are parts of life you just continue from. You don't bury the past, you learn what it is to move past it.

And though these richer ideas hidden within Dead and Buried may not be as readily unearthed as the typical ones, it is not for lack of talent. Noreen Farley and Stephanie Windland as Bid and Perdue make a magnificent pair, imbuing every moment with vulnerable honesty that elevates what could easily be an unremarkable relationship. Philipe AbiYouness gives an innocent buoyancy to Robbie, keeping the naiveté grounded enough to be affecting rather than tedious. A shoutout to Dave Maulbeck too. His set design has a playground-esque simplicity to it which highlights the moments of awe even when the script doesn't.

Dead and Buried may not teem with the profound simplicity commonly found in an intimate, suburban masterpiece. However, there is unexpected catharsis lying just beneath the surface. And even if the text doesn't always dig in the right place, strong performances and Laura Ekstrand's sensitive director's touch find humanity amongst the headstones.

Dead and Buried runs at Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre from Friday, Sept. 28 through Sunday, Oct. 14. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm.

Purchase tickets at https://www.dreamcatcherrep.org or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006. Performances are at the Oakes Center, located at 120 Morris Ave in Summit. Parking is available in the lot behind the theatre at 20 Ashwood Ave and at the Summit Recreation Center, 100 Morris Ave. The facility is wheelchair accessible. Assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired and advance large-print scripts are available for free by prior arrangement.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre

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From This Author Michael Vest

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