The choices in life that haunt you take center stage in two terrific productions running now in North Bay theatres. Sebastopol’s Main Stage West is presenting Sam Shepard’s Buried Child while Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater has David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People.
Shepard’s forty-year-old, Pulitzer-Prize-winning look at the implosion of the American nuclear family seems as fresh as ever with a very strong cast bringing Shepard’s oft macabre cast to life. John Craven (in a perfect melding of actor to role) is Dodge, the family patriarch. Once a successful farmer, he’s been reduced to being the cuckold of his domineering wife Halie (as played by Laura Jorgensen) and often finds himself at the mercy of his sons Bradley, an amputee who shaves Dodge’s head while he’s sleeping, and Tilden, who’s back home after getting in “trouble” in New Mexico. Tilden now spends his time carting in vegetables from a farm that hasn’t seen a seedling in decades. The sons are played by Eric Burke and Keith Baker, both making a welcome return to the Sonoma County stage after too-long absences.
The family’s decline can be traced to an event that is occasionally hinted at but never revealed – that is, until the arrival of grandson Vince and his girlfriend Shelly (played by Sam Coughlin and Ivy Rose Miller) sets a chain of events in motion in which the devastating secret is revealed and the family, perhaps, regenerated.
Rooted in realism yet often surreal, Buried Child is dark, funny, heartbreaking, disturbing and great theatre.
Good People, seen locally two years ago as the premiere production of Santa Rosa’s Left Edge Theatre, is the tale of Margie (Sarah McKereghan), a down-on-her-luck Boston “southie” who some would say has made a string of bad choices in life but would say herself that she never had any to make.
At the encouragement of her friend Jean (Liz Jahren), she attempts to reconnect with her old boyfriend Mike (played by Nick Sholley), now a doctor who long ago abandoned the projects of South Boston. Margie, for whom the term “pushy” is an understatement, wrangles an invitation to a birthday party for Mike being thrown by his wife. The wife is played by Liz Rogers-Beckley, who interestingly is reprising the role from the Left Edge production. Margie hopes to connect with someone who can offer her a job, but then the party is cancelled – or is it? Margie’s gonna find out. It does not go well.
Funny, bleak, and utterly real, Good People will have you nodding your head in recognition of these characters and shaking your head in frustration at their decisions.
Two great scripts. Two great casts. Two great shows. Your Choice.
Good People runs through February 18 at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater – Friday & Saturday at 8pm; Sunday matinees at 2pm. For more information, go to cinnabartheater.org.
Buried Child runs through February 25 at Main Stage West in Sebastopol – Thursday through Saturday at 8pm; Sunday matinees are at 5pm. For more information, go to mainstagewest.com.
As originally published in edited form in the North Bay Bohemian