To Hell in a handbasket

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  May 1, 2007

But Buried Child, which Shepard revised in 1995, is not about some literal, incestuous embarrassment long swept under the Midwestern grass. It’s about the corrupted promise of the American Dream and the inescapability of heritage, a concept Vince folds into a crescendo of a speech about watching his own face in a windshield as it morphs into that of his father, his grandfather, “back to faces I’d never seen before but still recognized.” The play’s symbols seem more obvious now than they did when its power was new, and the erotic echoes of Pinter’s The Homecoming are loud. But Shepard’s combination of strange agricultural metaphor and corrosive comedy still casts a spell. And the wand is well wielded at the Nora, where a good cast, under Daniel Gidron’s direction, negotiates the murky familial by-ways, treading carefully between vulnerability and threat. The character of Bradley, sadistic when safely propped on his artificial leg, helpless as a slug without it, is just one example. More to the point are Mark Peckham’s wounded Tilden, fiercely tearing corn into a jumble of vibrant ears and fraying husks to pile on dad’s decaying body, and William Young’s waspish Dodge, a tangled tumbleweed of comical dotage and chill intimidation blowing up against the threshold of death’s door.

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