Theater Review: THE CHILDREN (Moxie Theatre in San Diego)

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by Milo Shapiro on November 18, 2022

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego

THE CHILDREN IS NOT CHILD’S PLAY

One of the challenges of reviewing theater is figuring out how much to divulge without giving away what the playwright wants to let unfold. The Children is one of those plays where it’s almost impossible to say what it is about in any sort of cohesive way because twists and turns start from almost five minutes in. Hints trickle in about what’s actually going on; we gather them, bit by bit, as we put together the puzzle. Playwright Lucy Kirkwood is hiding several of the pieces under that puzzle box and she’s not giving each of them up until she has to. With good reason.

Venessa Dinning, Catalina Maynard, Neil McDonald

Even the opening moment is a jolt. Taking a page from Stephen King, Kirkwood and director Kim Strassburger grab us from the second the lights come up as we try to make sense, for the first few minutes, of the very first thing we see. It’s delightfully clever in that way and every time we think we’re caught up, Kirkwood is ready to say, “Oh, really?  Now there’s THIS!”

Catalina Maynard

What can be said is that the play opens with Rose and Hazel (Catalina Maynard and Venessa Dinning), two women in their sixties.  They are in Hazel’s cottage in a small island town where Rose, after decades apart, has come by unexpectedly to visit. Their former closeness is apparent, but something big has happened in Hazel’s life that has really thrown her life for a loop and, whatever it is, it’s the elephant in the room. The tension builds when Hazel’s husband Robin (Neil McDonald) comes home from what he does most days (again, just can’t say what here) and the couple’s dynamic vacillates from deeply loyal love to uncomfortably toxic, especially because Rose has to sit through the swings. There’s a real Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf quality here that makes it riveting and frequently uncomfortable. Despite the almost-ironic title, the play is very much about later-in-life choices when “the children” are in their thirties and far off.

Catalina Maynard, Venessa Dinning

The 90-minute one-act is very much an ensemble piece with no actor being the clear main focus, but rather each having strong dyads in addition to all three on stage together. This writing choice was wise, as the impact would have been lessened if it were more anyone’s story than the other two. All three actors throw themselves into their roles beautifully, although it’s worth noting that Ms. Dinning’s Hazel, being pulled in the most directions, does take on what is probably the toughest role with a wonderful realism that would have been ruined by an over-the-top interpretation.

Catalina Maynard, Neil McDonald

The Children isn’t bright and glitzy. It’s three very imperfect people trying to make the most of the hands that life has dealt them, and it’s Ms. Strassburger who made sure we pay attention to that. The end result is Moxie producing one of the most interesting and well-acted one-act plays that this critic has enjoyed in some time, leaving attendees with a lot to discuss on their way out.

Neil McDonald

photos by Daren Scott

The Children
Moxie Theatre6663 El Cajon Blvd. Suite N – San Diego CA 92115
Thurs at 7:30; Fri & Sat at 8; Sun at 2ends on Dec. 4, 2022for tickets, call 858-598-7620 or visit Moxie Theatre

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