Review: 'Buried Child'

By Jim Rutter

In both theme and setting, Sam Shepard’s 1978 Buried Child has aged far beyond its shelf life.

In the 1970s, no-fault divorce had just begun the breakdown of the nuclear family illustrated by his play. Today, you can’t pass two people on the street without meeting a survivor of a broken home. The end of the American Dream of self-sufficiency from owning a piece of land that Shepard depicts in the barren fields of a rundown farm seems quaint compared to the painful economic recovery after the subprime bubble.

And a play about farmers, are you serious? The only farmers today’s theatergoers care about are that hipster couple that quit their graphic design jobs, remortgaged their Fishtown home and now sell overpriced cow-shares in New Jersey.

The alcoholic, adulterous, incestuous, failed farm family of Shepard’s Pulitzer-winning play hold no similar appeal.

Thankfully, the razor-sharp production at Norristown’s Iron Age Theatre turns the taut family drama of this dated piece into a perverse pleasure: that of watching mean-spirited people tear into each other (much like Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

Their solid cast includes Dave Fiebert as Dodge, the now decrepit patriarch of the clan, his emotionally-stunted son Tilden (the excellent Chuck Beishl) and Eric Wunsch as Vince, the grown grandson that expects to rejoin his family lineage but finds no one recognizes him.

Randall Wise and John Doyle's direction provokes much laughter from the dark humor of people that should care for one another acting callously toward buried secrets and familial tragedy. That their malice stems from financial ruin and personal misfortune fails to inspire empathy or even sympathy.

By contrast, the decade after Shepard wrote this play still saw nationwide concern for the plight of America’s family farms (remember Farm Aid?).

Today, Monsanto, the debate over genetically modified crops, and Amish stalls in Rittenhouse Square remind us that our food comes from somewhere. And however much we can enjoy Iron Age's production, we certainly don’t want to think it’s produced by people like these.

Buried Child. Presented through April 13 at The Centre Theater, 208 DeKalb St, Norristown. Tickets: $15 to $22. Information: 610-279-1013 or

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Load comments