Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
All of the action takes place within the cabin that Hazel and Robin have been living in since the tsunami damaged their beloved farmhouse. Steadfastly upbeat Hazel (Marcia Saunders) maintains her daily regimen of yoga and sunscreen while coping with the disaster's aftermath and limited access to electricity. Her husband Robin (Graham Smith) keeps himself busy during the day and drinks too much homemade wine at night. When former friend and coworker Rose (Janis Dardaris) shows up on their doorstep after many years abroad, the animosity between her and Hazel is clear, but the purpose of her visit remains obscure for some time.
The cast has real chemistry. Marcia Saunders' down-to-earth intelligence feels wholly authentic. Graham Smith gives an energetic and multifaceted performance. Janis Dardaris maintains a fierce and foreboding presence throughout.
Daniel Zimmerman's realistic interior set is truly impressive and Marla Jurglanis' costume designs are spot on. Dennis Parichy's dynamic lighting design sets the tone and creates a sense of time pressing forward. Unfortunately, neither the lighting nor the ensemble adequately convey a sense of peril. Watching Adams' production, it is too easy to forget that the meltdown happened only a few months before and miles away. Without a palpable sense of dread motivating the action, the play becomes untethered in spots, particularly toward the end where lofty issues of personal responsibility, maturity, and environmental impact overshadow both interpersonal issues and nuclear fallout.
Some of the blame for this lies with Kirkwood's script and its strange lack of detailed information about the accident itself or the subsequent impacts. In a room full of nuclear scientists there is frustratingly little discussion of the accident and its consequences. Some awkward transitions and a couple of hard to swallow plot devices also hamper the impact of The Children.
When the stage lights come up, Rose is supposed to be ignoring a nose bleed accidentally inflicted by Hazel, but there is no blood visible. That gushing blood, the sense of seriousness and doom and foreboding is exactly what's missing from this otherwise solid production. The Children is still very interesting and entertaining, but I cannot shake the sense that it could be so much more.
The Children runs through February 9, 2020, at the People's Light's Steinbright Stage, 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For tickets and information, call the box office at 610-644-3500 or visit www.peopleslight.org.
Playwright: Lucy Kirkwood