Gimme two: Shepard duo wraps up season
Regarded as one of the country’s foremost playwrights, Sam Shepard integrates wild humor, grotesque satire, mythology, and spare language to create a subversive pop art vision of America.
Shepard has written more than 45 plays and won 11 Obie Awards. Buried Child, perhaps his best-known work, was the first play to win the Pulitzer Prize without first appearing on Broadway. Live Arts ends their regular season with a tribute to Shepard, and they want to do it up right: 24 performances, 11 interesting characters, five bushels of corn, two powerhouse directors, one on-stage haircut, and more toast than you could ever butter.
Boomie Pedersen directs the Main Stage production of Buried Child, one of Shepard’s “family plays.” In Buried Child, a family of broken individuals lives within a dilapidated house. The aging father, Dodge, is a ranting drunk. The mother, Halie, is in retreat from reality. Two sons, Tilden and Bradley, are profoundly damaged, one mentally and the other physically.
Beneath the disheveled veneer of this fractured family runs an undercurrent of menace, violence, and savage humor. Into the middle of it comes Vince, Tilden’s son, with his girlfriend, Shelly. Vince has come looking for his roots, but what he finds is a dark secret and his own surprising place in the life of the family.
In the LAB Space, Amanda McRaven takes on True West, another of Shepard’s “family plays” that is uncharacteristically traditional in its structure, but typically over the top in its story and style. True West is a tale of sibling strife as two estranged brothers, Lee and Austin, go mano a mano, giving each other grief but, at the same time, paradoxically, giving each other life.
In the course of the play, the two switch roles: The younger Austin, a mild-mannered screenwriter with a wife and family, steals toasters from neighboring homes, while Lee, a desert rat who steals for a living, hustles an off-the-wall movie treatment to Austin’s agent.
Adding to the drama of this mini-Shepard festival is a special staged reading of Curse of the Starving Class, the first play of the Sam Shepard “family trilogy,” written in 1976. The cast for this staged reading will be members of the Buried Child and True West casts.
Artistic Director John Gibson says, “Sam Shepard is our great primal playwright, and his essential ‘family plays,’ Buried Child, Curse of the Starving Class, and True West, make for must-see live theater.” One playwright, three plays, a wealth of opportunities to get to know more about one of the country’s premiere writers for the stage– sounds like the perfect way to end a good theatrical season.
Buried Child and True West run through May 3. The staged reading of Curse of the Starving Class takes place on Sunday, April 27, at 7pm. Live Arts, 609 E. Market St. Ticket prices range from $7-14.