And so begins David Mealor’s director’s statement, showing us that Buried Child can be summed up with the same plot as 90% of plays set in rural Midwest and Southern America.
The ideal or criticism of the Great American Dream runs through much of that country’s literature. Written in the late 1970s, Buried Child came off the back of a nation recovering from the Watergate scandal, deep in recession and high in inflation, a country unhappy with the war in Vietnam. In his script Shepard is extremely critical of the mythology a country burying its past, looking forward to a new day.
In a gothic farm-house in Illinois, rain pours down. Matriarch Halie (Jacqy Phillips) yells down the stairway onto the largely un-listening ears of patriarch Dodge (Ron Haddrick), as he sits and coughs on the couch, watching the television and swigging from a hidden bottle of whisky. Their son, the lumbering and slow Tilden (Nicholas Garsden) appears, in his arms an old sack, bushels of corn plucked from the depths of the yard.
Over years, the family has become destroyed, fortunes trapped in a rural farm-house, dreaming of what has been lost and hiding away from what can never be regained. Their other remaining son, Bradley (Patrick Graham), is an abusive lout, and Halie pains for the now dead son who was her great hope. Halie and Dodge have for many years lived in separate rooms; her dreaming of a happier life that was and escaping the house for a happier life in town; he alive perhaps only by a stubbornness to not leave the house to anyone in his family.