Next Stage Festival – Buried – Theatre Awakening

By Crystal WoodBURIED PHOTO 2  

What are the different ways of dealing with grief? Buried, now playing at the Next Stage Theatre Festival, explores just that.

The play begins with the funeral of the family matriarch Jean, and continues with the days following it as her family tries to cope in their own ways. One daughter, Rachel, over-sentimentalizes; another daughter, Anne, micromanages. Bill, the father of the family, can’t remember what has happened at all because of his struggle with Alzheimer’s.

Rosemary Dunsmore appears as Jean, the deceased mother that only Anne can see. Writer Tessa King did something very interesting with the character of Jean. Rather than being a ghost or a “voice from beyond”, Jean appears mainly in the odd, fragmented memories that Anne has of her. It’s like we’re watching Anne piece together what she remembers of her mother.

And apparently, she doesn’t remember everything. In the play’s second half, the daughters discover their mom’s diaries, and the story segues into one about family secrets unearthed. Still grieving, the daughters learn that Jean has kept a painful secret buried for decades. (Buried… buried… hey, I just got that!)

It’s an interesting look at how we don’t always know those that are closest to us, and King’s script is sad and funny in all the right places. I was quite happy that this play about family and loss never dips into any sort of overwrought ABC Family territory. Tessa King has a strong voice, and I look forward to seeing more work by her in the future.

All of the performances are strong from the cast: Rosemary Dunsmore, Christine Brubaker, Fiona Highet and Ian D. Clark. My heart was especially tugged by Clark as the Alzheimer’s-afflicted husband Bill. I almost, almost got out the Kleenex during Bill’s scenes. If it’s not sad enough to watch a man who can’t remember the passing of his wife, it’s watching Anne have to constantly say the painful words to him over and over again.

With direction by Andrew Lamb (fresh off My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding), I’m going to throw my (hypothetical) money down and say Buried is headed for a Toronto mainstage run in the near future.

 
Details:
– Playing until January 17 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst Street

 

– Check http://www.fringetoronto.com/nstf/nstf_schedule.html for show times

– Tickets are $12 for shows that start before 7pm, and $15 for shows that start after 7pm. Multi-play passes are also available.

– Tickets available online at the web site listed above, or in person at the theatre.

Photo of Ian D. Clark, Christine Brubaker and Fiona Highet, courtesy of Theatre Awakening