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Written by Lucy Kirkwood; directed by James MacDonald
Performances through February 4, 2018
Ron Cook, Francesca Annis and Deborah Findlay in The Children (photo: Joan Marcus)
The ponderous The Children arrives in New York after raves in London, as Lucy Kirkwood’s risible drama about the after effects of a devastating nuclear plant disaster wastes its topnotch cast.
Post-meltdown in rural England, 60-something marrieds (and retired nuclear engineers) Robin and Hazel live just outside the radioactive danger zone. When former colleague Rose arrives out of nowhere, scaring the bejesus out of Hazel—who smacks Rose’s nose in fright, causing a torrent of blood staining Rose’s shirt—Robin and Hazel find themselves dealing with a past that includes infidelity, along with figuring out the kind of future (if any) they’ll have.
The play’s title refers to the couple’s unseen offspring, whom Rose asks Hazel about more than once, along with referring to the play’s strident plea not to ruin our world for our children’s benefit. Kirkwood strains at understatement in her characters’ small talk and British stiff-upper-lipped reserve, however wrongheaded for her creaky melodrama. It's obvious that all three of them are aware of past indiscretions, so why the continued dancing around the subject?
And to extend what might have been a taut fifty-minute one-acter into a flabby one-hundred minute one-acter, Kirkwood drops in irrelevancies like a dance sequence to a song the trio loves, along with a pointless conversation that finds Hazel constantly questioning Rose if she only did number 1 in the loo instead of number 2, which causes the toilet to clog. Rose replies that she only did number 1—and when water comes streaming into the kitchen, (un)hilarity ensues.
Rose isn’t settling old scores or putting their mutual past in proper perspective: instead, she’s asking her fellow scientists to join her at the stricken plant to take over cleanup from the much younger workers currently there. After all, since they’re pushing 70, it makes sense for them to risk their twilight years than those with decades ahead of them. It's a worthy sentiment, but Kirkwood drops it in so heavy-handedly that it has little of the sense of urgency or mortality she was aiming for.
It’s up to three superior performers—Deborah Findlay (Hazel), Ron Cook (Robin) and especially Francesca Annis (Rose)—and James MacDonald’s sympathetic direction to make this shrill message play palatable.
Samuel Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th Street, New York, NY
Last September, I was at the Ottawa Animation Festival, which is the main thing that happens in Canada’s capitol aside from government bureaucracy, and on the last day I was there, there was a long gap between screenings, so I went down to the Arts Center where some events I hadn’t noticed before were still going on, and I when I got there, I saw that there was a long, long line.
This was for Pearl, a 360° short film released as part of Google’s Spotlight Stories project. Now what this thing was, was not one of those 3D things where you need special glasses for, but something more important: A narrative Virtual Reality experience.
It blew me away. This is the future of cinema. It told a story (about a guy, his kid, and their car), and it did what VR was supposed to do, put you in the middle of the action. You had to put on the goggles and headphones to see it, and that’s fine, it’s the way we’re going to watch movies in the ’30s and ’40s. We have to start somewhere.
In the early 1930s, a two-reeler called La Cucaracha got an Oscar for Best Short. It wasn’t very good in and of itself, but it was the first film to use 3-strip Technicolor, and as such looked gorgeous. So it was, for the time, a technical marvel.
Pearl is that sort of film. Not something that will thrill viewers 30 years from now. But something like, Dire Straits’ music video Money for Nothing back in the ‘80s, something that was really cool and somewhat visionary at the time, but soon become dated. That thing looked kind of primitive when it came out. So did FDR’s television from 1939. State of the Art doesn’t seem “state of the art” for very long.
And thus it is for Pearl. The first successful experiment of something that would show the world the possibilities of the next phase in the evolution of the art form.
The people who make the nominations pretty much all saw the 360° version, and yes, that version deserved all the accolades it can get. But here’s the rub. The nominees have to be seen on the silver screen, which means the people who voted on the Oscar itself won’t see it. They will see a “cinematic” cut down version that’s nowhere near as good, and these people will wonder how this nice, but by no means exceptional, little film earned a nomination in the Best Animated Short category.
So it will lose. Which is sad.
Father and Guns
Canada has given us so much in comedy, whether it is from writers, TV shows, and movies. Now on September 18 - 25, 2015 at Cinema Village (22 E 12th St, New York, NY), the Canada Cool - Comedy Tour, presented by Telefilm, celebrates the comedic legacy of the northern territories. A curated selection of ten Canadian films that have not yet reached American theaters, plus two classics.
For more info and showtimes, visit: http://www.cinemavillage.com/
Canada Cool - Comedy Tour
September 18 - 25, 2015
Cinema Village22 E 12th St.New York, NY 10003
Kenneth MacMillan was, along with Frederick Ashton (whose The Dream is being performed by the American Ballet Theater later this season) and Antony Tudor, one of the greatest British choreographers of the twentieth century. His Manon, after Jules Massenet's opera of the same name and adapted from the classic, 18th-century French novel Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost that is the source for the opera, is a masterpiece. The current production, which returns after an interval of several years and dates from 1974, has new sets — these are unsatisfactory — and new costumes — these are somewhat better — by Peter Farmer. What really matters here, however, is MacMillan’s glorious, meticulous choreography — which soars, carried by Massenet’s beautiful melodies, orchestrated and arranged by Martin Yates — and the magnificent Ballet Theater dancers.
The sublimity of the evening performance on Wednesday, June 4th, was owed most of all to the astonishing dancing of the great Russian ballerina, Polina Semionova, in the title role, who surprised me in her ability to evince the sexuality inherent in the character. Her partner, the handsome Cory Stearns, as Des Grieux displayed an impressive virtuosity. As Lescaut, James Whiteside’s athleticism was riveting, although he lacked actorly conviction. Veronika Part as Lescaut’s mistress was dazzling and effectively worldly. The dynamism of the secondary cast and the corps as a whole — they have been superb this season — was enthralling.
The matinee performance on the same day was weaker overall but still engaging. Xiomara Reyes, who has excelled this season, danced beautifully and excitingly and captured much of the intense romanticism of Manon, especially in her exhilarating duets, but she fell short of the tragic force of Semionova. Her partner, Kevin Jackson, an Exchange Artist with The Australian Ballet, was technically accomplished but not as memorable as Stearns. Sascha Radetsky was a more plausible Lescaut than Whiteside and is a fine dancer but Whiteside’s execution was more remarkable. Isabella Boylston as Lescaut’s mistress danced elegantly but was less striking as an actress than was Part.
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