buried-child-5QC Theatre Workshop at 1730 Wilkes Avenue, Davenport, IA is home to some of the most brilliant actors in the Quad Cities. The set, always perfect for the compelling scripts chosen for their cozy stage and the people are kind and welcoming. This local theatre brings you into the story, no matter what story. They are incredibly real and their skills at shutting out the audience is incredible. Every play at this theatre is like being inside of the book itself. It is just amazing theatre and deeply satisfying.

I had known ahead of time that their latest, “Buried Child,” would be a soul wrenching experience. This article will be a bit different as the subject matter is quite personal and it was rough not completely losing myself in my connections with this story. This piece sent me into a zone where demons of my own were forced upon me. “Buried Child,” by Sam Shepard was directed by James Fairchild.  I attended their opening night on Friday, October 14th.

As the title suggests, there was indeed a child who has died in this story. He was favored and feared for it. So the father drowned him and buried him in the backyard. I lost my own son, Andrew, just last year. He was 15 and my youngest. Although the circumstances were different than the ones in the play, the pain of losing a child and the damage it does to a family seems to be similar in many ways. It was like inside their minds at times. Their acting skills were so real and present…I just got lost within this story. Child loss is devastating and they did a compelling job portraying the pain and confusion that follows such a dark and tragic event.

The set was fitting. The jagged edged set was stained with “leaks” and dimmed by “mildew” in this old farmhouse living room setting. The darkened room swallowed me. The dirty, old furniture reminded me of my own rough times. The music was choices between scenes were haunting as well. I heard a few moments of Pink Floyd and it brought me even closer to the family as it is my own favorite band and a common thing between my late son and I.

The broken old man on the couch, Dodge (Pat Flaherty), was just waiting to die. He was constantly using humor as a way to get through each moment and a life which was seemingly full of regrets. It reminded me of myself in an inexplicable way. He, however, was the one who drowned the child.

His wife, Halle (Patti Flaherty), reminded me of myself as well. As a mother who feels this emptiness inside, I can tell you that it is easy to lose oneself in any situation available that kills the pain. her affair with Father Dewis (Andy Curtiss) might shock some. But not me. I have been in her shoes and mistakes are easily made in a constant effort to kill a pain that never goes away. She saddened me. From the way she went about the conversation with Dodge, talking only of a past that had gone long ago, I knew she was lost. She spent all her time in denial. She spoke of her dead child as if he were some kind hero and would have done so much better in life than her other children.

buried-child-3Her delusions only hurt her other children.

Poor Tilden (Mike Schulz), the big brother to the buried one, had truly loved that child. He ended up losing his mind altogether after the death and just becoming a burden on the family. He spoke often of his loneliness and nobody seemed to care. I wished in those moments that I could reach out to him. He was so GOOD! But of course, he was just a character in a play. I decided to make sure that I would reach out to my other children.

Bradley (Brant Peitersen), the bully big brother sort, was angry at the world for losing his leg in a chainsaw accident. He was only tough when mother was not around. In her absence, he was cruel and controlling.

The poor outsiders, Father Dewis and Vince’s girlfriend, Shelly (Abby Van Gerpen), were guests only temporarily trapped in this madhouse. They had no idea how to handle this family or how to act beneath the shadow that seemed to loom over the family home. Encompassed by the all-consuming darkness that threatened to steal their souls, they watched in terror as Vince (Josh Pride), the returning son of Tilden who had been gone for years building his own “normal”  life, fought to be remembered and slowly became part of the darkness himself. Vince realized he was the only conductor left on this crazy train who could even function on a level sane enough to keep the rest of the remaining family alive to carry on the charade that followed the murder of the baby. The guests struggled the entire time to take it all in, and ran as fast as they could in the first moment that presented itself.

“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, released in September 1975, was played as the outro. This made me cry because it was one of the songs we played at Andrew’s funeral. I was haunted by this play before I saw it. I was terrified to move during. I was mortified when Tilden came in at the end and carried the dead brother in his arms up to his mother’s room. And in leaving, I was in tears. I almost ran back to my van. “Buried Child” was an excellent choice for October at the QC Theatre Workshop. This ghost story was not about the ghost itself, but the ghosts remaining in the home after the death of the child. Scary stuff, people.

You can experience this awesome cast at work and see Buried Child on Friday, October 21rst and Saturday, October 22nd at 7:30pm. There is also one more showing on Sunday, October 23rd at 3pm. Go and see this play. It will give insight into a tragic experience that one should never have to suffer.

Support your local theatre: www.QCTheatreWorkshop.org.

Stay informed: www.facebook.com/qctheatreworkshop.

For reservations and more information on Buried Child,  call (563)650-2396 or e-mail qctheatreworkshop@gmail.com.

Buried Child performance schedule
Friday, October 21, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 22, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, October 23, 3 p.m.

Friday, October 28, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 29, 7:30 p.m.

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Amanda Jo Payne read her first novel by age 5 and began writing plays and poetry at age 11, when she received her first typewriter from her mother. A love for putting words together pushed her into higher education and she obtained her Board of Trustees BA from Western Illinois University in 2008. As a mother of three and a grandmother of four, she spends most of her time reading and taking care of her family.