Through March 26
THE CHILDREN The New Phoenix Theatre/Red Thread Theatre
Back in 1986 when stupidity and incompetence led to the Chernobyl nuclear plant blowing up and spreading radiation far and wide, some workers volunteered to go back into the plant to help shut it down and ease the flow of radiation.
Those workers knew they were committing suicide by going into the plant and receiving lethal doses of radiation.
Yet, they did it.
That’s in the background of Lucy Kirkwood’s “The Children,” which is more clearly built on the story of the nuclear complex in Fukushima, Japan, devastated by an earthquake and tsunami.
The plant and the cleanup are still being mishandled to this day, with its vast quantity of radioactively dirty water the owners want to just dump in the ocean...
The playwright has moved the story to a fictional nuclear plant on the British coast, which underwent the same disaster.
With Britain short of electricity in the story and the plant needing a shutdown, an entire coastal area has been evacuated.
Hazel (Josephine Hogan) and Robin (Peter Palmisano) are nuclear engineers in the plant who were forced to leave their farm and its animals near the plant and move further away, to a house which only has power part of the day.
Robin leaves every day to visit the farm to care for the animals.
Then, former co-worker Rose (Eileen Dugan) arrives for a visit, leaving Hazel suspicious.
As her time continues, Rose’s presence stirs the pot in prior lives, back to the time when she was also a nuclear engineer in the plant.
That’s before she bailed and moved to the U.S. for a new life.
There is plenty of dirt in the past lives of the three, particularly back to the time when they were essentially a threesome.
The marriage stabilized and Hazel and Robin raised their children and went to work, until everything went bad.
Now, secrets are spilling out and Rose admits she wants the two to return to the plant and help clean up the situation by stanching the flow of radiation.
Rose suggests radiation inside the plant was responsible for her own breast cancer.
All three know returning to the plant is a death sentence and Robin knows he’s doomed anyway, once Rose makes it clear by running a Geiger counter over him.
Kirkwood leaves the ending a little ambiguous, about what the three do.
What would you do?
“The Children” is one of those plays which makes you think and that’s not a bad thing.
Director Robert Waterhouse does a nice job with Chris Wilson’s deliberately claustrophobic set on an interesting platform cantilevered out into the seating of The New Phoenix Theatre.
Waterhouse has a very strong cast of some of the best on the local theater, with Dugan, Hogan and Palmisano delivering wonderful performances.
See “The Children.”
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