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Classic and Overtime Theaters serve up strange brews

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

The cast of Classic Theatre’s Buried Child.

Buried Child

8pm Fri and Sat,
3pm Sun
The Sterling Houston Theater at Jump-Start
108 Blue Star
(210) 589-8450
Through July 24


Life, or a Reasonable Approximation Thereof

8pm Thu, Fri, Sat
3pm Sun matinee July 24
No performance Fri, Aug 5
Overtime Theater
1414 S. Alamo, #103
(210) 557-7562
Through Aug 6

The Classic Theatre opens its fourth season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, Sam Shepard’s creepy take on Midwestern repression: it’s like woodworms feasting on American Gothic. Featuring a generous assortment of Flamboyant Literary Symbols — the title might as well shoot sparks — Buried Child ultimately detonates the nuclear family. And like much of Shepard, the play relies less on strict plotting than on ever-more-complex layers of association and disjunction: it’s a prose poem of generation and sterility, of Illinois nightmares and California dreamin’, of miraculous harvests and the grimmest of reaping. In a refreshing development, the production is helmed by newcomer Stefan Novinski, professor of drama at the University of Dallas; as a non-resident of Bexar County, he is of course automatically and senselessly disqualified for an Alamo Theatre Arts Council Globe Award for direction. (Welcome to San Antonio theater, Mr. Novinski. Please come back anyway.)

The evening begins haltingly, with a long and static dialogue between ailing couch potato Dodge (John O’Neill) and housewife Halie (Rita Crosby), whose offstage voice occasionally does battle with the pit-a-pat of Rick Malone’s rain-swept sound design. (Yes, this makes the first scene look and feel like heartland Beckett — an immobile protagonist, a disembodied voice — but [lord!] is it slow. Bury the child, not the dramatic interest.) Things perk up considerably with the entrance of troubled son Tilden, who’s been digging up Dissertation Topics in the backyard; he begins with Native American maize — a tip of the hat to post-colonial studies, here — and eventually investigates phallic carrots (a shout-out now to gender studies). Anthony Ciaravino, almost unrecognizable, gives the ensemble’s strongest performance as this haunted, and haunting, man-child. There’s more than just veggies lying around the yard, however, and as further characters take the stage — including John Minton’s aggressive Bradley and the impossibly wholesome duo of grandson Vince (Rodman Bolek) and fiancée Shelly (Kat Connor) — it looks less and less likely that a certain family secret will remain good and buried.

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