'The Children:' A Play at Studio Theatre That Makes You Think

Photo by Carol Rosegg
Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen and Naomi Jacobson
Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen and Naomi Jacobson

The Studio Theatre has a hit with The Children. Every component; the writing, the acting, scenic design and inspired directing by David Muse all make for a riveting ninety minutes of theater.

Lucy Kirkwood’s play forces you to think and that is a good thing. She writes about everything from the economy, climate change, the relationship of parents to their children, husbands to wives, and girlfriends; and our deepest values. She says she is “very grateful to the Baby Boomer generation” for all they have accomplished but then writes they are to blame for much of what is wrong with the world and questions what they may owe the next generations finally asking if they should be willing to act heroically and shorten their lives for them.

Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen and Naomi Jacobson (Photo by: Carol Rosegg) Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen and Naomi Jacobson

The Children is set in a remote cottage on the British coast, a long-married pair of retired nuclear physicists, Hazel (Jeanne Paulsen) and Robin (Richard Howard) are living a very modest life in the aftermath of a natural disaster, which turns out to be an earthquake and then tidal wave which caused an explosion in the nuclear plant in which they worked on the coast of their town. Since the disaster they are giving scrupulous care to energy rationing, their garden, and Hazel takes to practicing yoga to cope. When a former colleague, Rose (Naomi Jacobson), reappears after 38 years, her presence totally upends the couple’s equilibrium and trust in both their relationship and their values. As the fallout from long-ago decisions they all made hurtles into view, Rose unveils a proposal that threatens more than their marriage, it threatens to shorten their lives and change their relationship to their children. 

Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen (Photo by: Studio Theatre) Richard Howard, Jeanne Paulsen

There are times during the 90 minutes of the play when one thinks the playwright must spend her life thinking about all these issues and being depressed. But then all three incredibly talented actors led by the directing of David Muse, take her words and as their lives unravel in front of you, flaws and all, I found myself constantly changing what I thought about each of them as the play moved along. I disliked Rose at the beginning of the play but more fully understood her and how she thought by the end. Hazel became a real person in front of my eyes. Robin was the stoic who ping-ponged between them and he did it superbly. They became so real and their existential crisis hit home I left the theater wondering what I would do in their situation. At one point, since they are physicists they talk about what has happened and what is happening in the plant now. While scenic designer Tom Kamm set a perfectly good stage for 88 minutes of the play, all taking place in the kitchen of the small cabin they are now living in, his true brilliance comes out in the final two minutes of the play as the set is opened up with the drawing back of curtains and you are left to wonder if even Hazel has decided to join Rose and Robin who had already agreed to work in the exploded dangerous plant. Nephelie Andonyadis does a good job as costume designer as does Miriam Nilofa Crowe as Lighting Designer. 

This is a play everyone should see from Baby Boomers to their Millennial Children. Each may come to a different view of each other. The Children will be at the Studio Theatre through June 2, 2019.