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Out of all the tragic myths of American life – and there are, sadly, plenty to choose from – that of the perfect nuclear family has churned out perhaps the most dramatic material. The peculiarly American delusion that such a thing as a perfect nuclear family exists, or once did, has provided fodder to countless artists working in the popular media. Perhaps the most persistent miner of this notion is Sam Shepard, whose play “Buried Child” explores the disintegration of both the actual American nuclear family, such as it ever was, and of the very idea of it.

Torn Space Theater (Adam Mickiewiecz Dramatic Circle, 612 Fillmore Ave.) opened its production of the 1978 play, directed by David Oliver, on Thursday. In its post-modern way, the play explores the life of an American farm family beset by alcoholism, economic decline and various other dusty brands of disappointment and disillusion.

“Beyond his essential predecessors like [Eugene] O’Neill and [Arthur] Miller he took the family into a more mythic theatrical landscape,” Oliver said in a release. “In ‘Buried Child’ this is paradoxically realized in part through forces of plenty bearing down on an otherwise isolated family unit, their lives lacking on all levels.”

Tickets to the show, which runs through March 16, are $15 to $25. Call 812-5733 or visit www.tornspacetheater.com.

– Colin Dabkowski