Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Theater Review: The Children


Vanessa Dinning, Neil McDonald and Catalina Maynard in Moxie Theatre's "The Children."

Vanessa Dinning, Neil McDonald and Catalina Maynard in Moxie Theatre's "The Children." (photo by Daren Scott)

It’s a funny title, considering there are no children in the cast. But they get top billing for other reasons in Lucy Kirkwood’s strange and unsettling “The Children,” playing through Dec. 4 at Moxie Theatre.

Nothing is quite right in this dystopian world. The action takes place in a cottage in which three retired nuclear engineers who have survived a nuclear disaster in England find themselves reunited for one evening. 

Robin (Neil McDonald) and Hazel (Vanessa Dinning), 65ish and married, live on the edge of the sea in England. A tsunami threatens (among other things) to envelop the coast the cottage is built on, not to mention cause havoc to the nuclear power station that supplies the area with energy.

A third, much younger scientist named Rose (Catalina Maynard) – also part of the original triumvirate at the power station – comes to visit.

Life isn’t what it once was (Can we identify?). Power is rationed and expensive, no one knows what horror may befall at any moment, and as Rose puts it, it was all their own fault because “We built a nuclear reactor next to the sea, then put the emergency generators in the basement.”

The only thing they have left? Their children (which were also “rationed,” if one can say that rationally. Robin and Hazel have not just kids but grandkids. 

A daughter named Lauren (now 38) flits through the conversation, confusing things even more.

Rose? Well, that’s another edgy part of the story. It seems that Rose and Robin have (had?) a relationship that Hazel has tried to ignore, difficult as it is.

Sooner or later, Rose and Robin dance to steps created by Hazel and Robin decides to return to the power plant.

“The Children” is a strange and disturbing piece that will send you home pondering what our individual responsibility is to the universe, the human species and those close to us. Not to mention whether we should be using nuclear power at all, given the dangers it raises.

The actors are universally excellent. Vanessa Dinning, usually known as Moxie’s voice and dialect coach, is excellent as Hazel, the scientist who tries to settle her fears by working out on her yoga mat.

Neil McDonald is convincing in his Moxie debut as Robin, struggling to make peace among the three scientists, especially with wife Hazel.

Catalina Maynard’s Rose has the scientific answers and the youth of the trio, along with the will to try to make things work both in science and human relationships.

Julie Lorenz’s set (mostly Robin and Hazel’s flat on the edge of the water) and Carmen Amon’s costumes are both convincing, as are Ally Wood’s lighting and Maeann Ross’ occasionally scary sound designs.

With this show, the original Moxie Ladies bow out and leave the theater to the next generation. Stay tuned. And give “The Children” a try. You’ll have an experience unlike any other.

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