by Mavis Manus
Skillful acting and directing help smooth over the dramaturgical fault-lines in THE CHILDREN, a nuclear disaster play now in its L.A. premiere at the Fountain.
First produced in London in 2017 and then a year later in New York, the work by British playwright Lucy Kirkwood transposes the Fukushima, Japan debacle to the east coast of England and asks us to get involved in the lives of three of its survivors. All of them worked at the plant and believed in the wonders of nuclear energy, only to later suffer from radioactive fallout, not just physically but spiritually.
Hazel (Lily Knight) and Robin (Ron Bottitta) are retired nuclear physicists living in a primitive cottage after having abandoned their nearby farm house when the tsunami struck. Kirkwood would have us believe these two stricken, savvy scientists would hang on in an irradiated zone-you can practically see the radiation in the air, Hazel admits-because they feel responsible for the doomed livestock they left behind.
Enter Rose (Elizabeth Elias Huffman), a garrulous, excitable physicist. Though she too was poisoned by radiation when the reactor leaked-shes had a mastectomy, we soon learn-she has wisely fled the disaster zone. She stayed away for nearly thirty years, only to suddenly turn up in her friends household and cause much upset. At first it would appear that she wants to rekindle the affair shed once had with Robin, but no, she has another, deeper motive. Out of guilt for having played a role in the nuclear blast, she wants to atone by returning to the still-leaking power station and restoring it to full strength. Not only that, she wants Robin and Hazel to join her team, insisting that its the moral thing to do.
When her friends point out that the radiation will surely kill them, Rose counters by saying it wont happen for twenty years. Youll be then anyway, she adds. Thats why Im not recruiting anyone under the age of 65.
Things like that made me cringe in my seat, only to be pulled back into the narrative flow by the valiant work of the actors, as they brought their characters to life in a believable and admirable way.
Directed by Simon Levy, THE CHILDREN is an apocalyptic tale about a trio of scientists struggling to cope with their professional and personal flaws and failures.
(The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave. For tickets and information call 323-663-1525 or visit fountaintheatre.com