Magazine article American Theatre

Buried Child

Magazine article American Theatre

Buried Child

Article excerpt

The Characters

Dodge, in his seventies Halie, Dodge's wife. Mid-sixties Tilden, their oldest son Bradley, their next oldest son, an amputee Vince, Tilden's son Shelly, Vince's girlfriend Father Dewis, a Protestant minister

ACT ONE

Scene: day. Old wooden staircase down left with pale, frayed carpet laid down on the steps. The stairs lead offstage left up into the wings with no landing. Up right is an old, dark green sofa with the stuffing coming out in spots. Stage right of the sofa is an upright lamp with a faded yellow shade and a small night table with several small bottles of pills on it. Down right of the sofa, with the screen faring the sofa, is a large old-fashioned brown T.V. A flickering blue light comes from the screen, but no image, no sound. In the dark, the light of the lamp and the T.V. slowly brighten in the black space. The space behind the sofa, upstage, is a large, screened-in porch with a board floor. A solid interior door to stage right of the sofa, leads from the porch to the outside. Beyond that are the shapes of dark elm trees.

Gradually the form of Dodge is made out, sitting on the couch, facing the T.V., the blue light flickering on his face. He wears a well-worn T-shirt, suspenders, khaki work pants, and brown slippers. He's covered himself in an old brown blanket. He's very thin and sickly looking, in his late seventies. He just stares at the T.V. More light fills the stage softly. The sound of light rain. Dodge slowly tilts his head back and stares at the ceiling for a while, listening to the rain. He lowers his head again and stares at the T.V. He starts to cough slowly and softly. The coughing gradually builds. He holds one hand to his mouth and tries to stifle it. The coughing gets louder, then suddenly stops when he hears the sound of his wife's voice coming from the top of the staircase.

HALIE'S VOICE: Dodge?

Dodge just stares at the T.V. Long pause. He stifles two short coughs.

HALIE'S VOICE: Dodge! You want a pill, Dodge?

He doesn't answer. Takes the bottle out again and takes another long swig. Puts the bottle back, stares at T.V., pulls blanket up around his neck.

HALIE'S VOICE: You know what it is, don't you? It's the rain! Weather. That's it. Every time. Every time you get like this, it's the rain. No sooner does the rain start than you start. (Pause) Dodge?

He makes no reply. Pulls a pack of cigarettes out from his sweater and lights one. Stares at T.V. Pause.

HALIE'S VOICE: You should see it coming down up here. Just coming down in sheets. Blue sheets. The bridge is pretty near flooded. What's it like down there? Dodge?

Dodge turns his head back over his left shoulder and takes a look out through the porch. He turns back to the T.V.

DODGE (To himself): Catastrophic.

HALIE'S VOICE: What? What'd you say, Dodge?

DODGE (Louder): It looks like rain to me! Plain old rain!

HALIE'S VOICE: Rain? Of course it's rain! Are you having a seizure or something! Dodge? (Pause) I'm coming down there in about five minutes if you don't answer me!

DODGE: Don't come down.

HALIE'S VOICE: What!

DODGE (Louder): Don't come down!

He has another coughing attack. Stops.

HALIE'S VOICE: You should take a pill for that! I don't see why you just don't take a pill. Be done with it once and for all. Put a stop to it.

He takes bottle out again. Another swig. Returns bottle.

HALIE'S VOICE: It's not Christian, but it works. It's not necessarily Christian, that is. A pill. We don't know. We're not in a position to answer something like that. There's some things the ministers can't even answer. I, personally, can't see anything wrong with it. A pill. Pain is pain. Pure and simple. Suffering is a different matter. That's entirely different. A pill seems as good an answer as any. Dodge? (Pause) Dodge, are you watching baseball?

DODGE: No. …

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