(Jeff Garret and Scott Phillips as son and father.)
Sam Shepard's Buried Child is my all-time favorite play, and before catching this production at the Boxcar, I'd never before seen it staged. The play loomed large in my imagination: I had my own vision of Shepard's twisted family and its rural Illinois environs, and I knew exactly what blood-curdling emotions I wanted evoked in me practically at each line.
At the beginning of this production, directed by Rebecca Longworth, I was worried I was letting my fondness for the play dictate impossible standards. The actors were fine, but they weren't inhabiting the roles in the way I (unfairly?) imagined.
But then, as I hope my review conveys, everything changed when Jeff Garret entered as Tilden. I'd only seen Garret once before, that time in a role so comic I actually cried. I've been keeping an eye out for him since, but no luck--I assumed he'd left the Bay Area.
I describe his performance in Buried Child more fully in my review, but suffice it to say here that he went far, far beyond how I imagined the character. I'd seen Tilden as quiet, fragile and stoic, and while Garret conveys the first two, he does so with a force that overwhelms the stage. It's not a subtle performance, and occasionally Garret goes too far with the idea that Tilden might be mentally retarded. But despite these flaws, Garret achieves the kind of riveting presence that reminds you why you love the theater. I'd even go so far as to say that Garret makes Buried Child into Tilden's play.
Buried Child continues through Apr. 7; info here.