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Play Plays with Family Tensions

Lauren Toneatto ‘21, Staff Writer 

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Unspoken family secrets come to light when a man visits his family home, after six years without seeing his father or grandparents only to be completely forgotten, in the play Buried Child, which was performed this past week at Dickinson.

The play, which won a Pulitzer prize in 1978, was performed in remembrance of its playwright, Sam Shepard, who died in July 2017. Shepard is described on the Dickinson College events website as “one of [America’s] most distinctive and powerful dramatic voices.”

“Like [his] early work, one finds neurosis, disconnection, alienation, and a shattered, contorted portrait of the American family,” wrote Noah Fusco ’18 of Buried Child in the show’s program. “Yet [it has] just a few seeds of hope to assure us that, hey, maybe we can go on.”

Sophie Martin ’21 was familiar with Shephard’s themes of “pretty dark and depressing plays.” With this background information, Martin enjoyed the performance and left “feeling heavy and heartbroken for the characters.” Martin elaborated that she “just wanted to go back to my room and just sit with what I had seen. It was a very powerful play and I think the actors were really able to capture that.”

Unlike Martin, Rachael Czerna ’21 didn’t have prior knowledge of the subject matter, as she was seeing the show for a class, but she enjoyed the piece nevertheless. “I think the [character] with only one leg, did a really good job. He had his emotions in check.” The character she was referring to is Bradley, portrayed by Michael Luzzatto ’20, the cynical son of Dodge, played by Max Farley ’20, and Hallie, played by Amelia Deering ’21.

Martin shares similar opinions as Czerna about the actors. “I thought all the actors did a great job, especially the two female actresses,” referring to Deering and Sophia Scorcia ’20. Scorcia portrayed Shelly, the girlfriend of Vince, played by Justin Burkett ’20, who gets unexpectedly dragged into Vince’s family affairs. Scorcia “was able to bring some very funny elements to the character and at the same time show how scared she was,” Martin described.

Martin continued, saying “I think because the play was so heavy, that made me respect the actors even more because they were able to show that darkness in their acting and also add some humor.” Eryn Darcy ’19, the properties designer, said “it was quite fun to work on this show, as the props were mostly common items, but the “buried child” was an exciting challenge. Working with the production designer to hone in on Professor Wronski’s vision was enjoyable and I am thrilled with the final result.”

The two acts of the performance portrayed two days in the family’s life at their home in downstate, rural Illinois, with three scenes: Day, Later, and The Next Morning. The cast was made up of only seven performers, Burkett, Farley, Scorcia, Deering, Luzzatto, Tom Schmitz ’21, and Peter Winnard ’18. Buried Child was presented by the Department of theatre and dance and the Mermaid Players. The performances were on Friday, March 2 through Tuesday, March 6, in Mathers Theater.

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Play Plays with Family Tensions