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Hard Calls

Two great shows trod life's rough roads

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HARD ROW TO HOE  Tilden (Keith Baker) plays a key role in Main Stage West’s excellent ‘Buried Child.’ - ERIC CHAZANKIN
  • Eric Chazankin
  • HARD ROW TO HOE Tilden (Keith Baker) plays a key role in Main Stage West’s excellent ‘Buried Child.’

The choices in life that haunt you take center stage in two terrific local productions.

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 is 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) plays Dodge, the family patriarch. Once a successful farmer, he's been reduced to being the cuckold of his domineering wife Halie (Laura Jorgensen) and often finds himself at the mercy of his sons, Bradley (Eric Burke), an amputee who shaves Dodge's head while he's sleeping, and Tilden (Keith Baker), back home after getting in some trouble in New Mexico. Tilden now spends his time carting in vegetables from a farm that hasn't seen a seedling in decades.

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 (Sam Coughlin) and his girlfriend, Shelly (Ivy Rose Miller), who set in motion a chain of events through 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 theater.

Rating (out of 5):★★★★½

Good People, seen locally two years ago as the premiere production of 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, though Margie herself might say she never had any to make. At the encouragement of her friend Jean (Liz Jahren), she attempts to reconnect with her old boyfriend Mike (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 (Liz Rogers-Beckley, reprising the role from the Left Edge production), where she hopes to connect with someone who can offer her a job, but then the party is canceled. 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.

Rating (out of 5):★★★★

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