In Rome I read Sam Shepard’s Buried Child for the first time, surprised by how similar it was to my own play The Confirmation. In both plays the action centers on a dysfunctional family to which the return of a family member accompanied by an outsider results in the revelation of a terrible family secret that may or may not be true. In both plays the vernacular of American everyday phrases and clichés combines with the bizarre behavior of family members to create a highly comical tone. I love the comic scenes of Shepard’s play, the absurd upstairs/downstairs conversation between husband and wife, Dodge and Halie; the hilarious gardening of Tilden, who discovers whole armfuls of corn and carrots in a backyard without a garden; and the mad family interchange between Dodge, Tilden, Vince and Shelley, in which grandfather and son seem unable to recognize or even recall the existence of Vince, who Halie later describes as having been “the sweetest little boy.” But then, this family hardly recognizes family members with whom they live, each describing one another as utter failures, and yet each nearly unable to care for himself.
Café Mancini, Rome, October 15, 2003