The Jungle has entered the 2019 theatrical year with no reservations, with a play that feels small but asks some very big questions. The Children falls into a category of plays that I call "the living room play" a genre of shows that take place in one room in which the story is driven by the conversation inside. In this case the living room is a quaint English cottage on the seaside, brought to life beautifully by the scenic design of Chelsea M Warren. The conversation is driven by the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami that took down a nuclear power plant and has made much of the surrounding area inhabitable with radiation levels dangerously high. The play was inspired by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that had the faced the same fate as the fictional nuclear power station in The Children.
Our players are three retired nuclear engineers that helped to build the power station, and had left before disaster struck. Two are married, and one is an old friend who has arrived after many years in the states to stir up trouble. The play gets off to a slow start, introducing us to the characters in a way that I feel could have been paced a bit quicker. But once The Children gets into the meat of the show it is non stop. Forcing the audience to consider big questions such as the value of life, who deserves to live and what do we owe to our children.
This play could not be successful without the incredibly strong 3 person cast that is comprised of veterans of both stage and screen. Linda Kelsey plays Hazel, a woman who has finds joy in routine, and pride in learning to with without daily comforts. Her husband Robin, played by Stephen Yoakam can't seem to let go of the land that they had to abandon after the disaster. Laila Robbins plays their friend Rose, who comes in to stir things up, a woman with passion and determination to make things right.
I appreciate this story being told from the view point of engineers. My day job is being an engineer, and there can be a weighty responsibility to it sometimes, one that I did not fully understand when entering the field. As my husband once said to me "I thought my job was stressful, if I screw up I lose the company a lot of money, if you screw up someone could die". And although there are multiple checks against that, the fact still stands. The the case of bad engineering, and multiple bad circumstances such as a tsunami, people can die. The Children does not shy away from this fact.
The Children is currently running at the Jungle Theater until February 10th. Click here for more information about the show.
*Photo by Dan Norman