BWW Review: THE CHILDREN at the Seattle Rep Examines Legacy and Responsibility
With more and more younger people getting involved with politics and saving the planet, the question raises, what is the responsibility of the older generation, the generation that caused many of the problems, to clean up their own messes? Such a question is posed in Lucy Kirkwood's commanding play "The Children", currently on stage at the Seattle Rep. But far beyond just an evening of recriminations, this delicious onion is peeled back layer by layer, thanks largely to a superb ensemble, until everything is laid bare. And once it is, it's over, allowing the audience to make up their own minds.
On a deceptively simple set by William Bloodgood, Director Tim Bond paces the evening with a wonderful slow burn as we get to the heart of the reunion of three old friends and former coworkers, Rose, Hazel, and Robin (Carmen Roman, Jeanne Paulsen, and R. Hamilton Wright), as they try to put their past behind them. A past that includes when the three worked at the local nuclear power plant that suffered a devastating meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami. Husband and Wife, Robin and Hazel, have just tried to go on with their lives in simple retirement, living just a few miles outside the contaminated zone. Enter Rose who left the country and travelled, attempting to find her place. But now she's back with a request that could destroy their quiet lives.
The brilliance of Kirkwood's script stems from two points. First and foremost, her dialog is rich, engaging, and most importantly, honest. With not one wasted moment, her exposition of the story unfolds easily and with no pretention. Secondly there's her structure of the story as we are offered up tiny bits of information at a time until, finally, the full horrifying tableau is presented to us before we even realize.
But it's this trio of incredible actors who convey the bittersweet moments and this is where the show shines even brighter. Wright takes on this man trying to hold in all his secrets with gusto as he shows some tremendous vulnerability. And Roman, as the interloper with an agenda, brings her character to vibrant life as she slowly doles out her intentions. But it's Paulsen who blew me away as she manages to keep so much going just below the surface and allows us to watch it all bubble over, not with an explosion, but with a release valve of emotion that she stunningly works all night long. A beautifully heartbreaking performance.
Now, as much as I've gushed over the show and performances, the piece didn't completely grab me. I see the import and sublime moments, but it was such a slow burn that I never felt that crescendo. Did I enjoy it? Yes, definitely. Am I glad I saw it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Of course. Do I insist that people rush right out to see it? Not particularly. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give the Seattle Rep's production of "The Children" a "well that was interesting" YAY-. A really good play, that was worth an evening, but failed to rock my world.