The playwright mixes a realistic plot with elements of symbolism in his depiction of three generations of one fragmented American Midwestern family, set against the backdrop of the economic downturn of the 1970s. Its main theme, Richins says, is the exploration of genetic versus environmental identity, as a dark secret comes to light when a grandson returns with his girlfriend to the family farmhouse and isn't recognized.
In some ways, Richins says, "Buried Child" set off the kind of thematic ripples that echoed through Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," which Silver Summit and Utah Repertory theater companies teamed up to produce last year.
"If you have a family, and if you've ever had problems with your family, you're going to connect to this," Richins says. "I want people walking out of here thinking: 'You know, maybe my family ain't that bad.' "
The cast includes Justin Bruse, Michael Croker, Stein Erickson, Barb Gandy, Natalie Keezer, Aaron Kramer and Andrew Maizner.
"The Secret Lives of Clowns" • Jared Greathouse says his company's latest dramedy might seem less experimental than his Hive Theatre's usual fare. (This summer, for instance, Hive produced "Cock," a script with no stage directions and no sets, that directed actors not to do the usual pantomime or stage business, such as pretending to eat.)
That said, in "The Secret Lives of Clowns," Greathouse plays Mr. Wiggles, a punked-out clown in blue face "with a wild imagination and a hedonistic appetite," as he is described in marketing materials.
Greathouse, who co-founded the Hive Theatre Company in 2010 with his wife, Tiffany Greathouse, says the story is concerned with the question of what it means to be an artist in a place, like perhaps Salt Lake City, that doesn't make it particularly easy.
The script tells the story of Johnny, a theater critic and teacher, who is jolted from his comfortable-seeming life by the news of the murder of a former clown-school friend. His former clown persona, Mr. Wiggles, appears in Johnny's imagination to prod the critic about his long-neglected artistic ambitions.
Overall, Greathouse says the story might be considered conventionally plotted, but it's also "a little absurd, a little scary and pretty funny." And there's some onstage juggling.
Directing the show is Sam C. McGinnis V, with Greathouse as Mr. Wiggles and Austin Stephenson as Johnny. Other actors include Tiffany A. Greathouse, Thomas Bo Brady, Zachari Michael Reynolds and Andrea Peterson.
"Young Frankenstein" • If you liked watching Mel Brooks' twisted comedy poking fun at the genre of horror movies, the Grand Theatre hopes you'll be drawn to the musical version.
Director David Schmidt says he's been a fan of the movie since it was released in 1974. "I love all the jokes, and we still tell all the jokes in our family," says Schmidt, who heads the vocal program for the University of Utah's theater department.
Schmidt is returning to the Grand after directing the theater's popular production of "Little Shop of Horrors" last October. "This kind of show, the big musical comedies, are his specialty," says Seth Miller, the theater's interim artistic director.
"Young Frankenstein" is the story of Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of Victor Frankenstein — as you probably know, that's pronounced "Fronk-en-steen" — who inherits his family's Transylvania estate as well as his ancestor's interest in mad science, working with his famous assistants Igor and Inga.
The musical includes all the iconic lines, but the story unspools a bit differently, thanks to the addition of character development. "There are some solutions and some endings that aren't in the movie, and they're fun and surprising," Schmidt says. Then there's this: The stage musical is in color, he adds, with a laugh.
"Really, we're just doing Mel Brooks' humor onstage," Schmidt says. "They're going to go home laughing and hopefully go to see the movie."