Buried Child @ The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, The Pershing Square Signature Center 2/21/2016

Ed HarrisIt should’ve been a slam dunk as far as I was concerned; I love Ed Harris and the play was a revival of Sam Shepard’s classic Buried Child, playing down at one of our fair city’s very best and newest venues, The Pershing Square Signature Center. Well, I wasn’t disappointed in the new and comfortable Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre, nor was I in Mr. Harris (who I actually shook hands with in that gorgeously appointed lobby of the Pershing post show…he couldn’t have been nicer) his wife Amy Madigan as the reality-ignoring semi-shrew Halie, Larry Pine’s quick yet rich turn as Father Dewis, Rich Sommer’s scary yet broken Bradley, seemingly dim-witted but wiser-than-most here Paul Sparks, Nat Wolff eating scenery as Vince and Taissa Farmiga, who manages a performance as stunning in its way as Harris’; Derek McLane’s set design was especially real and at times claustrophobic and director Scott Elliott keeps the action tight pretty much on the couch or on the floor most of the time.

But what didn’t move me so much was…Shepard.

I’m not denying the guy isn’t one of our true American legends. I can’t dispute the fact that this play must have shocked audiences when it premiered in 1978 (it won the Pulitzer a year later) but I’m not sure if Buried Child has legs (though for this particular run it has been extended 5 weeks). The story meanders a good deal, there are characters appearing in this play I still am wondering what their purpose was, and the big reveal comes more as a whimper and less of a scream after lots of mid play abject confusion. That American Gothic, disappearing-farmscape idea that Shepard has mined before is here and again Harris and company were nothing short of brilliant (they are worth buying tickets for, believe me) but Sam Shepard’s Buried Child simply does not hold up for me so well these nearly 40 years later.

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