Pictured: Janet Ulrich Brooks, Yasen Peyankov, and Ora Jones. Photo by Michael Brosilow.
By Sheri Flanders
Three aging nuclear scientists reminisce about their glory days, and contemplate their grim legacy in “The Children” at Steppenwolf. Like the askew kitchen table at its center, Lucy Kirkwood’s play is terribly unbalanced, weighing far too light on the foreboding science and dread that makes it unique, and too heavy on the predictable drawing room drama.
Fortunately, this ensemble of actors would be infinitely watchable just reading the telephone book (do they still make those?) and deliver stellar performances. Janet Ulrich Brooks plays Hazel, a whip-smart and organized woman who quips “If you’re not going to grow, don’t live” yet ironically remains firmly planted in the fetid soil of yesteryear. Yasen Peyankov is Robin, Hazel’s reckless drunk husband, who at one point rides a tricycle around near the sheer cliff of the pitched stage, a metaphor for playing chicken with his and everyone’s future. Ora Jones plays Rose, a seemingly flighty woman, who finds the strength to finally commit to something when it just might matter the most.
“The Children” touches upon rarely charted thematic territory; the old bucking the stereotypes of age, desiring to live as boldly as they did in their youth. Is easing into our golden years a cop out? Or should one fight for a final act that ends with a bang instead of a whimper? Like the impressive Cape Cod style stilted stage created by Scenic Designer Chelsea M. Warren, “The Children” is built for a tidal wave but only delivers a babbling brook.
“The Children” runs through June 9th. For more information visit steppenwolf.org.