THE CHILDREN: Review Rundown

CRITIC’S CHOICE Elayanow’s script, first hilarious, then chilling, is a breathtaking achievement. It certainly ignites the designers, including savvy costumer Tina Haatainen-Jones, and the impeccable cast. Valicenti and White selflessly inhabit their outer and inner children, Nichols and Wright meld classical aplomb to postmodern truth, and Blinkoff plays off all of them brilliantly.

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CRITIC’S PICK This is a noteworthy production in every regard, from Elyanow’s brilliant poetry (“To mortal man, how great a scourge is love”) and ingenious references to the characters’ brave new world (“The sun has been harnessed!” shouts the handmaiden when the lights are switched on) to uniformly exquisite design elements and strikingly courageous, committed performances under the nurturance of director Jessica Kubzansky.

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GO THE CHILDREN Playwright Michael Elyanow transports Euripides’ Medea to the present day via a magic spell cast by a chorus member, an incantation that whisks the play’s two titular protagonists away from their homicidal mother to a Maine town in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane. Once there, the production takes more than a moment to find its footing. Early on, its script relies too heavily and for too long on familiar, winking humor, making too much of both. But once the play opens up its characters, and the mystery at its center deepens, the mythic resonance turns from jokey to philosophical to heartbreaking. As a result, the play revises and redeems itself, giving the talented ensemble ample room to display impressive range. The whole is elevated by the synergy of its strikingly good production values. Jaymi Lee Smith’s inspired lighting design brilliantly maximizes Francois-Pierre Couture’s clever and beautifully realized scenic design, while both are enhanced by a sound design, co-created by Veronika Vorel and John Zalewski, that never strikes a false note, and is by turns nuanced, haunting and thrilling.

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.

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The Theatre at Boston Court’s production of The Children is, in every sense of the word, truly an original production.  Aside from its presentation as a world premiere, the play itself is a sort of anomaly of style, deviating from expectations of what playwriting can and should be.  From top to bottom in this fast-paced and captivating production, its simply thrilling to get lost in the unknown and find yourself waiting in anticipation to see how everything unfolds.  Simply, The Children is wonderful.

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The only light in the dark theater is an eerily glowing mason jar. Slowly, a young man enters and stares into the distance. Maybe he’s looking at the past? Maybe the future? A young woman joins him, lovingly caresses his back. She sees what he sees. Maybe she’s his lover? Or sister? You can tell they share a secret. Suddenly, two puppets dressed in Greek togas descend from the ceiling. The man and woman look at them; look at each other; then reach for the puppets and bring them to life. That’s the beautiful and haunting prologue of playwright Michael Elaynow’s world-premiere playThe Children at Boston Court Theatre. Before a word is spoken you can’t help but recognize there’s a mystery here, one you want to unravel.

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Presiding over all this talent, pulling it all together and deftly setting it before an appreciative audience is the director, Jessica Kubzansky. After the play, she discussed with the audience the give-and-take that occurred during rehearsals between herself, author Elyanow and the cast to make “Children” a compelling theatrical event. Nice work if you can get it, as that old song goes, and she and the Boston Court crew, indeed, got it.

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This one is at times funny, intentionally so, but I had to sleep on it and explain it to someone else for the visceral reaction to consume me.  The reason is deceptively simple: in retelling the story at a table in a crowded restaurant I had the memory of Ms Kubzansky’s (and her designers’) wealth of stagecraft to assist me, without Mr Elyanow’s problematic pen to distract me.  Ms Kubzansky has rendered a flawed play into a beautiful and lingering piece of theater.  That it takes a while to sink in is a testament to the problems it has to overcome.

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The Children can be perplexing at times. Some may even wonder if Elyanow hasn’t asked too much of his audience and wish for a few more clues along the way. Still, by its extraordinarily moving final scene (and oh how I wish I could tell you about it), The Children is likely to have you in the palm of its hand and ever so glad to have been taken on the journey.

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Michael Elyanow’s original one-act play, The Children, is a lesson in storytelling, a dream within a dream, and an intriguing conversation starter all wrapped up in one. Though the plot is difficult to describe without revealing its mystery, I beg you to bear with me as I plunge into the murky waters of this unusual yet poignant production.

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The story begins in ancient Greece, where Medea’s children, Brother (Sonny Valicenti) and Sister (Paige Lindsey White), are in imminent danger of being murdered by their mother. The concerned Woman of Corinth (Adriana Sevahn Nichols) steals Medea’s spell book and transports the children and Medea’s bewildered Nursemaid (Jacqueline Wright) away into the future, specifically present-day Maine. Once there, the Nursemaid secretly begins making plans to return the kids to their mother, but these schemes are delayed by the resistance of the Woman, the appearance of a Sheriff (Daniel Blinkoff) and the looming disaster of an oncoming hurricane.

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**

Review rundown is updated whenever a new review is published.

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