Grow to Live: “The Children”

Paula Plum, Karen McDonald, Tyrees Allen. Photo by Maggie Hall Photography.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by Bryn Boice
Fight & intimacy consulting from Jessica Scout Malone

Feb. 28 – March 28, 2020
Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
SpeakEasy on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“You have a choice, don’t you, exactly, at our age which is that you slow down, melt into your slippers, start ordering front fastening bras out of Sunday supplements, or you make a committed choice to keep moving you know because you have to think: This is not the end of our lives but a new and exciting chapter.” – Hazel, The Children by Lucy Kirkwood

Boston, MA — Science fiction is about how humans interact with each other and the world amidst scientific and/or technological changes. Without getting into the nitty-gritty details of what is and isn’t science fiction, The Children is science fiction theatre. It has a lot to offer to everyone: science fiction enthusiasts will see themselves represented on the stage; science fiction cynics will see scientists as people. Everyone will see a great play by Lucy Kirkwood.

The Children finds retired nuclear scientists Hazel (Paula Plum), Robin (Tyrees Allen) and Rose (Karen McDonald) in a rustic cottage catching up over tea. It has been over 35 years since they last worked as scientists at the same power plant in the UK. As they catch up, we discover that there has recently been an accident to rival Chernobyl at the plant. The Children begins a discussion about our responsibility to keep the planet livable for the next generations and our personal accountability in this time of climate change. 

Kirkwood’s play does not take your conservative grandpappy’s approach to climate science. She leaves no doubt in the minds of her audience that the scientists in The Children are responsible for the nuclear calamity threatening their world. They made choices and they are holding themselves accountable for the cost-cutting, space-saving, earth-killing choices they made. She leaves no room in her dialogue for denial but acknowledges that the government will downplay the incident in order to keep the economy moving. Because everyone knows that the victim of a nuclear incident isn’t the local flora or fauna; it’s the money. Won’t anyone think of the money?    

Kirkwood throws several difficult moments at the cast and director Bryn Boice responded to them with composed aplomb. Apropos of nothing, the actors are made to line dance a routine that Hazel made up at a party years ago. Under a lesser director, this scene could have been embarrassing or haphazard. Instead, Boice made the incorporation of the choreography it make sense to the scene.

We saw Rose, Hazel and Robin celebrating life with their bodies. Boice treats the preparation and eating of food, smoking of cigarettes, and excretion of bodily waste the same way: affirmations of life. 

The actors employ accents in this production with moderate success. Their English accents come and go. In the beginning, they mostly go and take our attention with them. By the end, when the actors are more secure of themselves and their audience, the accents are more consistent, more natural. 

Tyrees Allen, Paula Plum, Karen McDonald. Photo by Maggie Hall Photography.

The Children offers multiple meaty monologues to actors who can play characters of retirement age.  Rose and Hazel have lovely one to two-minute comedic and dramatic monologues that discuss science and their love lives. Robin gets to be a fragile, old man who misses sex. The Children is available to purchase through the publisher, TCG’s website.  

Towards the end of the play, Rose says, “We don’t have a right to electricity,” and she’s right. We don’t. The planet isn’t ours to consume just because humans are the world’s reigning apex predator. Saving the world will require us to be more uncomfortable. We need to get comfortable with that idea. 

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