Children at Play @ Living Theatre, New York

cast list
Rachel Craw, Geoffrey Decas, John Halbach, Drew Hirschfield, Boo Killebrew, Susan Louise O’Connor, Jay Potter, Jennifer Dorr White

directed by
Scott Ebersold
Children at Play is a new theater piece written by Jordan Seavey, a prolific and excellent young playwright. The show is an entertaining and, occasionally, disturbing look at the passage of five students through junior high and high School. This emotional journey is seen through the eyes of these particular students at a time when every smile, look, and slight is cause for outrage and angst.

Performed with minimalist sets, which take the form of classrooms, auditoriums or parents homes, it is staged as a series of vignettes in which the group becomes friends, confidants and objects of lust over time. These school scenes are interspersed with high school audio/visual moments discussing the accident at Chernobyl. Anna, one of the children, was an infant and lived through Chernobyl as a young girl, before coming to America.
As Anna ages, she doesnt know how this major event in her infancy will affect her in the here and now. Rachel Craw brings the frightened little girl a depth of feelings. But it turns out that Chernobyl is like your family or looks or brains just one in a number of uncontrollable and unexplainable accidents that shape your life in High School. They can all be just as scary when you are worried or just as forgettable when you are in love.

Two of the roles, Morgan and Jeremy, are written a little beefier than the others. In tackling the role of Jeremy, Drew Hirschfield brings the perfect amount of shyness and inquisitiveness to the role balanced by a sunny outlook on life.

Susan Louise OConnor, as Morgan, has the most difficult role as a weary woman in a childs body – and handles it deftly. Last seen as the hyperactive maid in Blithe Spirit on Broadway, here Ms. OConnor is angry at her own youth, teased by most schoolmates, mortified by her parents but still operating as a sort of den mother to these five friends, both a part of and separate from the group. She, along with the rest of the cast, excels at bringing both the sadness and silly joys of childhood to life.

The play is smoothly directed by Scott Ebersold, who manages to balance the frenetic with the wistful. Despite many disparate pieces, the play ultimately achieves a cohesiveness that is needed for the emotional attachment to work for the audience.

It is a very good play, but not perfect. The high school is a little too screwed up to be believable, but this is a minor issue that doesnt detract from the show as a whole.

More problematic is an overly histrionic scene involving the father character, which, coming late the play, serves only to recap what the audience already knows. The heavy-handed scene draws the viewer out of the moment in a production which should have trusted this talented cast, who had already brought out those same emotions more truthfully earlier on.

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