For the company members of The Mechanicals this repertory story of Glengarry, Glen Ross on one night and Sam Shepard’s Buried Child on the next, it must be a bit of a wet dream come true. The two iconic American plays have got really juicy parts that most actors drool over. And it’s great to see the exact same cast transform into entirely different people. Funnily enough, those that were more successful last night were less successful tonight, and visa versa. And that makes me think that two separate casts and productions might have worked better. But I get ahead of myself.
First, the actual play. Buried Child survives its datedness because of the really beautiful raw poetry of Sam Shepard’s dialogue. The story itself is still a little shocking (but nothing like it was the first time I saw the play), and the some of the characters are so well drawn that if they are played well they take you with them on their journey. Still, I think the play is much more of a challenge for an audience to watch, especially if you kind of remember the story. And what was Sam Shepard thinking, writing in a character with a fake leg, that ends up in the wrong hands?!
Sam Shepard is director Chris Weare’s bottle of bourbon. He is entirely in tune with its rhythms and beats, its characters and its style. He is definitely the best guy for the job; but the play is still quite hard to get through, and my bum is still numb.
Nonetheless, Guy De Lancey was brilliant as Dodge. He was riveting and terrible. Gina Pauling (who remained unmentioned by me last night) was also remarkable as Hallie, aging up and physically changing to become her. Her accent was also the most successful and consistent. Tinarie Van Wyk Loots redeemed herself as Shelley. Her performance was layered and complicated and amazing. This is her role.
Less successful tonight were Scott Sparrow who was awkward and too young to play Tilden who is supposed to be crazy but not babyish, and Jason Potgieter who just didn’t manage the bad brutishness of Bradley and still had to be confined to the sofa and floor when his leg was took.
At the end of the night I walked away thinking how lucky the actors were to get the chance to do something like this; I mean, perform two different plays that alternate nightly. But I’m not convinced it’s the best way to do the plays, or to see them.