Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Moxie’s “The Children” Puts Us In A Post-Apocalyptic Quandary

Catalina Maynard, Vanessa Dinning, Neil McDonald

 Imagine being checked out by a Geiger counter to measure the amount of radiation in your body? It will happen, just as we are being scanned by wands to alert if any weapons are on us. If we continue poo pooing climate change and gun control laws can the same fate hit us as the three characters in Lucy Kirkwood's "The Children"? 

Former nuclear scientists, /engineers’ husband and wife, Robin (Neil McDonald) and Hazel (Vanessa Dinning) are living in a small cottage on the British coast not far from a nuclear reactor where the inconceivable happened; a tsunami upended the reactor killing almost everything in its wake. It’s now six months after the disaster and they are dealing with the aftermath when they get a visit from an old friend and former colleague, Rose, (Catalina Maynard).

Catalina Maynard

Playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s 2016 play is based on an actual happening. The event that served as the inspiration for the play was the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. Kirkwood moves the action to England where director Kim Strassburger and Dinning (whose accent comes natural coming from somewhere in UK) have the speech patterns down to a science. That’s the good news, bad news for these weary ears, aids and all. Yours truly had a few problems catching all the talk-over dialogue combined with the accents but surely, the point was not missed.

The play dishes out large quantities of what and how we prepare for future generations to survive/ live healthy lives/ grow to adults without major medical problems and how politics and the importance of environment control fit into the picture. The playwright pretty much doesn’t leave any stone unturned. With lots of after show talk, Kirkwood opens the door even wider for next gen to take action. 

With about one hundred minutes of give and take in this no intermission production we see all three actors peel layers and layers of back and forth, give and take exposing who they really are. They are not just two dimensional characters. When Rose comes to ‘visit’ Hazel and Robin one gets the impression it’s a normal visit until we learn Hazel and Rose have not seen each other in over thirty years. It takes lots of dialogue before we learn the purpose of her visit. She’s just returned from the states and has a favor to ask both of them. 

Neil McDonald

For the most part it’s friendly dialogue; catching up. They talk about children, Roses experiences in the states, etc. Rose has no children nor has she ever been married. When Robin comes in riding a tricycle, seemingly in a happy mood, the tension between Rose and Robin takes a while to drop to sea level by the time the truth of their relationship is revealed. Add McDonald’s Robin into the mix and this trio is headed down uncharted paths. McDonald is a study all unto himself. While assuming a cool veneer as he tries to soothe Hazel by taking care of her cows left at their farm by lying to her. He goes to the ranch  every day, according to her, to take care of them. Once again, more layers reveal just the opposite. But nothing gets by the affable and oft times impressive Hazel while she prepares salad for lunch. 

Dinning’s Hazel is more than a keen observer, as nothing gets by her at once noticing that Rose is all too familiar with the setup of her house. They all act as if nothing is happening while the banter between the three cuts and bruises to the core talking over one another, ignore each other, blame each other and barely listen. Finally, Maynard’s Rose, who is about as up -tight as a drum compared to Dinning’s relaxed, yoga mother, who prefers healthy foods to the alternative, tells her former cohorts, why she’s there. 

Vanessa Dinning

Simply put, she is reaching out to former employees of the reactor to go back and make it right, putting them all at risk. What to do? That is the question. There is the quandary, the Catch 22. Do we do what’s right for our children and their futures or do we serve our communities to the dangers they entail once again? 

Director Kim Strassburger with assist from Sandy Campbell have put together a top notch trio of excellent actors to bring these questions to the fore.  Who you think you see see isn’t necessarily who is uncovered. As mentioned before, layer upon layer of what and who they are, is revealed by plays end and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. 

All three have their chance to shine throughout. Dinning, a natural pleasant, no nonsense mother hen is just what her part calls for; loving, caring, devoted and it looks like she makes one hell of a salad.

Vanessa Dinning, Neil McDonald , Catalina Maynard

Catalina Maynard is perfect as the up tight former lover/ friend who can’t seem to find a comfortable space in her friend’s company. As for McDonald, bringing up the rear, Kirkwood’s play would be desperately missing an important piece. Beneath that concerned façade something malicious is at work.

For this San Diego Premier, Mae Ann Ross designed the sets, Ally Wood, the lighting design, Carmen Amon, the costumes, Gabby Stryker, stage manager, Julie Lorenz, set and of course the Moxie staff for making it all happen.

For our future and our children's future, I highly recommend it.

Dates: Through Dec. 4th

Organization: Moxie Theatre

Phone: 858 598 7620

Production Type: Dark Comedy

Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd., Suite N San Diego, Ca. 92115

Ticket Prices: $25.00 to $50.00

Web: moxietheatre.com

Photo: Daren Scott

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