Review: ‘The Children’ at Samuel J. Friedman Theatre

By Jonathan Spira on 16 December 2017
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Something is askew in the English seaside, a fact made immediately apparent by the off-kilter set of “The Children,” which transferred to the Manhattan Theatre Club from a successful run at the Royal Court Theater in London this month. It isn’t just the earthquake or the tsunami that follows, nor is it the shutdown of the nuclear reactor because the emergency generators will take over.

Alas, they are in the basement.

Perhaps it’s the sudden and unexpected appearance of Rose (Francesca Annis), a retired nuclear engineer, in the kitchen of two retired and married nuclear engineers, Hazel (Deborah Findlay) and Robin (Ron Cook). It isn’t the past history that Rose and Robin share in their golden (or is that glowing) years, living in the shadow of what essentially is a fictional carbon copy of the 2011 nuclear event in Fukushima, Japan.

Robin goes to their farm, now inside the exclusion zone, to tend to the cows they left behind, while Hazel practices yoga. If you plan to visit, bring along your Geiger counter. But why, after 38 years, is Rose now standing in the kitchen? Is it that Rose has arrived to reignite her long-dormant affair with Robin or does she have some darker, more nefarious purpose in mind? What exactly does Rose mean when she tells Robin, “We can’t have everything we want just because we want it.”

The audience will be well into Lucy Kirkwood’s 110-minute play before they have an answer.

Indeed, while the setup takes a while, the dénouement is worth waiting for, thanks greatly to the superb acting of the trio, Miriam Buether’s brilliant set, and truly illuminating lighting by Peter Mumford.

What did we just see, I asked upon exiting the theater. I wasn’t completely certain but one thing is clear: “The Children” made a disturbing enough statement about the price we may pay in the future because of how we treat the present to merit further consideration.


The Children
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street
New York, N.Y.
Runtime: One hour and 50 minutes (no intermission)

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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