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You Can Take It With You. Review of "Let's Dig Up Dad" at Summerfest 2017

Cody Buser’s “Let’s Dig Up Dad,” having closed it’s three performance run at the Hudson Guild’s Summerfest Theatre Festival is a cleverly written play with a great potential for not only comedy, but on a deeper level, family, parenting, and even the challenge of being the gay child of the family. There is a lot going on with this 90-minute festival play and Mr. Buser weaves it all together quite nicely, at least on paper.

The story centers around the the return of Theo, described by Buser as the “rainbow sheep” of the family and his relationship with his family. At the start of the play, Theo is seen quietly returning home for his father’s funeral and his presence is clearly a surprise to his estranged siblings, all of whom seem more wrapped up with their own personal situations than anything else.

There is “Molly,” the single mother of a young teenager trying to keep her life together as best she can, and “Chelsea,” the overbearing, controlling mother of two. Into the mix comes their mom, also estranged, who seems to have packed her bags when the siblings were younger and hightailed it out of there, abandoning the kids to fend for their own. We never see or meet “dad,” since he is dead, but it’s clear he has barely held the brood together and not done much of a job as a father, or so it may seem. His funeral reluctantly brings the family together, but in doing so some secrets are revealed and an understanding begins to develop among the siblings that binds them beyond family ties. What initially grabs their attention is that dear old dad has taken his fortune with him to the grave and the family must decide whether they are willing to dig him up and reclaim their inheritance. It is a wonderful concept and works well to jumpstart much of what happens in the story, but it’s not the only thing happening. That’s a great thing because we end up getting a real story with interesting characters that you won’t soon forget.

As a festival play in development, I have to say that this material has potential. The characters are interesting and, for the most part, well developed. They are all different and unique enough to make for an entertaining evening of theatre and I would respectfully encourage Mr. Buser to further develop this material. As a writer, his words are clever and punchy, and at moments brilliant, witty comedy shines through. I can absolutely see this play enjoying a longer run and with some attention to casting, really giving this material a punch. But the cast, while enjoying some really bright moments, seemed mostly too young - and miscast - for the roles. It’s not that they do a bad job, on the contrary, they make some real strides and show some chops. It’s just that they appear too young in my eyes. In the mix, there’s also the character of the lawyer, clearly one of the cast members in a dual role, wearing a whacky long wig that was so outrageous it stuck out. That whole scene just didn’t work. Clean those things up and you have a brilliant play. I really hope he considers doing so. It’s a good concept and a good play.

"Let's Dig Up Dad" closed at The Hudson Guild's Summerfest, but lets hope Mr. Buser considers bringing it back in some form in the future.

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