Theatre UNB’s dark and terrible secret

Derek Mitchell as Tilden pouring corn on top of Cody McKay as Dodge in Theatre UNB's Buried Child. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Dodge sits in a living room populated only by tiny knick-knacks and minimal furniture, an old country couch and a dull television. As the sun comes up on another day he’s trying to drown his wife’s tired cry out with a baseball game and stolen shots of whiskey.
Theatre UNB’s Buried Child bounces between engaging personal narratives and a family living in the fall-out of their regret. Dodge, played by Cody McKay, is the father figure rendered dependent and immobile in his seventies from years of working in the fields.
The family is living in the shadow of a terrible secret – one they’ve allowed to control them for 40 years. Buried Child is about the failures of the family unit and what happens when a family falls apart around one secret – all reacting in completely different ways.
McKay’s performance is petulant and crass, but forgiving at the right spots. He recognizes the family’s failures and is trying to die with a final shred of dignity. Still, he’s perpetually terrified of being left alone.
Ryan O’Toole also shines as Vince, the forgotten grandson. When he arrives, Vince’s family doesn’t recognize him, he’s been virtually forgotten. Lack of recognition sends him into an alcoholic binge that culminates in the last scene where the family must confront his anger and the secret they’ve been silently withholding for years.
Over the evening, you’ll watch a family’s relationship slowly writhe up and die because of a communication breakdown . They’ve all just drifted apart for thirty years, separately self-destructing over the same regret.
As Dodge says towards the end of the play, “everything was ruined by that one mistake.”
Every character is rendered impotent by something, left feeling useless. Whether it’s Bradley’s loss of a leg, Tilden’s silence, or Vince’s non-identity, they’re all wrecked.
Musically, director Len Falkenstein made a wise decision by having an original score for the play. Ian Goff’s lone acoustic guitar may give the music a bare-bones feel, but with recurring musical themes it gives the play a television feel, and completes this universe a little more coherently.
Buried Child is both linear and jumbled, a story that unfolds all at once, and over years. The main conflict of the play takes place through dialogue thirty years prior. An inauspicious introduction transitions to Vince’s return, but the second acts opens the next morning: the dawn of the last generation’s cycle.
Theatre UNB’s performance was smart, darkly humorous and eerily off-putting. The actors did well to portray the character’s deep-seeded secrets and will leave you feeling both indignant and piteous with their self-destructive insecurities.

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