Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
The Mystery of “The Children” – classical puzzle at The Theatre @ Boston Court
This show has been extended through June 17
I love a good puzzle. I love a play which begins with what we know overtly and then turns that reality upon its head. It can make for edge-of-the-seat watching, if handled right. If not, it can become an exhausting exercise.
At The Theatre at Boston Court, the puzzle is a pleasure. There, Michael Elyanow’s world premiere play “The Children” takes a spin on classical theatrical literature and warps it into a modern setting with surprising, fascinating and deeply satisfying results. Perhaps this comes from the organic nature of the puzzle itself, told by creating characters the audience connects with and an emotional palate which resonates regardless of antiquity, the anomalies which make the puzzle work, or even the fact that two of the protagonists are puppets interacting easily with the humans around them.
The initial premise is a fun anchor. What if, in the ancient Greek story of “Medea,” a handmaid equipped with some of Medea’s magic managed to swoop the children who would otherwise have been murdered into a different time: say a fishing lodge in 21st century Maine? What if, along with those three, Medea’s very faithful slave – the children’s nurse – also was swept accidentally into the present with the intent of returning the children to their fate? What would happen if they were then faced with explaining themselves to the conscientious sheriff intent on moving them to safety as a huge storm approaches?
And this is just for starters.
Sonny Valicenti and Paige Lindsey White handle the brother and sister puppets, allowing them an intricate interaction with their human costars that becomes so effortless one forgets every once in a while that they are not real. Indeed, the two puppeteers turn out to be far more personally engaging, and far more connected to their animated selves, but that is another part of the puzzle.
Adriana Sevahn Nichols, as the more benign rescuer, finds her own balance of practicality, incongruity and nurture as her character stumbles over the time change and the incongruities which develop. As the far more passionate, and intractable nursemaid, Jacqueline Wright vibrates with an underlying ferocity required of a character at once loyal and edgy. Daniel Blinkoff’s philosophical and somewhat ineffective sheriff spreads a kind of calm over even the more desperate moments of the story. Together they are absolutely riveting.
This comes courtesy of the tight and insightful direction of Jessica Kubzansky, who knows just how much to play with the audience and when to make the whole piece feel very straightforward. Add to this Francois-Pierre Couture’s layered set, which he and Kubzansky have filled with subtle clues, and with the layered but heartening script itself, and youhave quite an evening.
This kind of twisting, visual storytelling is the very stuff of theater. Puppets are real. Medea’s children can land in Maine – or do they? In the end, it’s a puzzle you must solve for yourself, and it is genuinely worth the effort.
What: “The Children” When: Through June 10, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays with an added performance 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 6 Where: The Theatre at Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave. in Pasadena How Much: $34, with senior and student discounts available Info: (626) 683-6883 or http://www.BostonCourt.org