Children

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    October 1, 2011

    Review by Tulis McCall

    Kids – what to do with them. A. R. Gurney has a few thoughts. Some you keep. Some you caution. Some you throw back.

    This is Mother’s dilemma as she frets over her brood of three “grown” children and the summerhouse over which she has presided for nearly four decades. As well as the children, she is also considering her own happiness. Now that her husband, who she liked but never really loved, is dead, there is life to be lived.

    That her husband’s death was a probable suicide does put a fly in the ointment. Guilt and resentment have free reign in this beautiful house on 5 acres of land at the beach. It is all white people and Espadrilles and as much liquor and façade as a person can stand.

    Barbara (Margaret Nichols) – who is on her own sort of – and Randy (Richard Thieriot) and his wife Jane (Lynn Wright) have all shown up as scheduled for the 4th of July event somewhere in the 1970’s. Barbara is divorced and more interested in the local contractor than her own children. Jane is about to burst at the seams from the constriction of being a perfect mother without any other career. Randy is trotting along like a pony with blinders who loves the motion and has no idea where he is going.

    The third child who deliberately has little to do with them all, Pokey, is also coming to this weekend’s events. Without telling her other children, Mother invited him because she is about to cut loose and leave the house to her children. They can bicker over it while she is away being in love and in life.

    Of course things don’t turn out the way anyone has planned. Life is being changed under their feet, and no one likes that. Each ends up claiming their bit of family history as best they can. Add to the facts is Gurney’s telling. Sometimes these people are direct. Other times the verbiage is oblique. These are people who speak in code because they have known each other for a long time, which is not to say they know each other well. This is a dodgy play that tries to make us care about people with too much money and en excess of time on their hands. The economy being what it is, that is asking a lot. But Gurney manages to give each character at least one or two moments where they drop their guards and we see the child that is still alive under the layers of adulthood.

    Sadly Darrie Lawrence does measure up to the character of Mother who is at once grand and vulnerable. Lawrence lacks gravitas and appears to be uncertain of her blocking. Margaret Nichols fares a bit better but seems removed one layer too many from Barbara. Richard Thieriot grabs on to Randy with grace and vulnerability and Lynn Wright eventually hits the mark as the reluctant debutante on the way to a too, too dreary ball.

    Scott Evans has managed to create the appropriate atmosphere, and there are enough of those moments that make you sit up and pay attention so that your interest never flags.

    All in all this is a production that almost makes it.

    But on the whole I left wanting to care about this family more than I did.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "This ponderous, Chekhovian drama lacks the subtle wit that marks Gurney’s best work."
    Frank Scheck for New York Post

    "The show delivers its heady punch with warmth, comedy, and charm."
    Lisa Jo Sagolla for Back Stage

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Post - Back Stage