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REVIEW: The Post-Nuclear Not-Quite-Apocalypse of The Children (Jungle Theater)

Stephen Yoakam, Linda Kelsey, and Laila Robins in The Children. Photo by Dan Norman.

A nuclear catastrophe. It happened. At the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis.

Strangely enough, this did not actually break out on-stage per se, at least not in its main elements. But Lucy Kirkwood’s play The Children nevertheless unfolds under the shadow (cloud?) of radioactive fallout.

Where? Not from a North Korean missile, it turns out, but from a Fukushima-style nuclear plant disaster. There is certainly some drama to be had there, but it’s not actually as high-stakes a play as you might expect, given that setup. You also get the impression that things would be more lucid (and, admittedly, a bit less dramatic) if the audience was told just a little bit of information earlier. Such is life on the stage.

The cast of The Children reads like a “Who’s Who” of Twin Cities theatre, with Stephen Yoakam, Laila Robins, and Linda Kelsey on deck. Linda Kelsey’s Hazel and Yoakem’s Robin are visited by Kelsey’s Rose, who is herself not exactly forthcoming on key information.

Laila Robins and Stephen Yoakam in The Children. Photo by Dan Norman.

The key strength of this production is its trio of on-point actors. Under Casey Stangl’s direction, the trio poke at and bounce off each other with electric energy; you can forgive some of the hokeyness of the plot devices because they’re all so interesting to watch. In a style that somewhat recalls Sartre’s No Exit, these are not characters who are nice to each other. There are some sharp but well-painted disagreements, which helps keep things interesting.

As the title suggests, some of those interesting disagreements happen to be about having children. I can think of few other topics that would send my boyfriend flying away so quickly after a play, but there’s certainly table fodder for a group of 20-/30-something women over drinks. And did I mention that we have nuclear power plants in Monticello and Red Wing, Minnesota?

Don’t read the program notes until after this show.

The Children plays through February 10 at the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis, MN.


Amy Donahue