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The Actors Company Theatre Presents "Children" by A.R. Gurney at the Beckett Theatre
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The Actors Company Theatre Presents "Children" by A.R. Gurney at the Beckett Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

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TACT/The Actors Company Theatre
(TACT Website)


By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Scott Alan Evans

At the
Beckett Theatre
(Theatre Row Website)
410 West 42nd Street

Darrie Lawrence, Margaret Nichols,
Richard Thieriot, Lynn Wright

Scenic Design: Brett J. Banakis
Costume Design: Haley Lieberman
Lighting Design: Bradley King
Sound Design: Stephen Kunken
Production Stage Manager: Robert V. Thurber
Asst. Stage Manager: Michael Friedlander
Casting: Kelley Gillespie
TACT General Manager: Cathy Bencivenga
Press & Publicity: O & M Co.
Dramaturge: Stephanie Walter
Props by Lauren Madden
Asst. Director: Lauren Miller

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 17, 2011

Even before this A. R. Gurney 1970’s intermission-less play began, the audience was able to gaze upon the mesmerizing set, by Brett J. Banakis, the terrace of a clapboard seashore home, probably in Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. The blue sky backdrop, white wicker furniture, and sports and garden equipment told the story of this upper crust family, before they stepped onstage. When they did, their Polo dresses, V-neck, ribbed tennis sweaters, large straw hats, and lacy finery, thanks to Haley Lieberman’s costume design, brought us right into the arena of A. R. Gurney’s specialty, the upper crust WASP society that’s the current target of political commentary on financial inequality. And, financial inequality is the bulls-eye of Children’s central theme.

Four family members carry the dialogue and action for themselves and three offstage characters. Darrie Lawrence is Mother, the owner of the family’s sumptuous summer estate, having been widowed a few years earlier, when her husband fell ill at the beach. Margaret Nichols is Barbara, one of the three siblings, who’s divorced and having an affair with a local contractor (offstage) in town. Richard Thieriot is Randy, a private school teacher, who’s obsessed with athletics and winning, and Lynn Wright is his wife, Jane, who’s visibly unhappy and yearning for more. The third sibling (offstage) is Pokey (his real name a mystery), with whom nobody is friendly, not even Mother. It’s a July 4 family get-together, but the tension is palpable and poignant. The third offstage character is Mother’s fiancée, another local property owner, familiar to her children in ways that aren’t so pleasant. Throughout the family repartee, escapes into the driveway to see offstage lovers, phone calls in the kitchen (seen through the busy door), and marital revelations on terrace settees, cocktails flow in abundance. The din of ice cubes to the rescue.

There’s much talk about the emotional circumstances of Father’s death, the real estate motives of Barbara’s contractor boyfriend, the source of Jane’s despair, and so on. There’s also banter about Father’s will, requiring Mother to immediately change the property’s deed, equally to her three children, upon her second marriage, and how that gift announcement causes more pain than pleasure. Barbara seizes on the notion of living there permanently, with her contractor lover doing a winterizing, that the siblings share in expense. Randy and Jane seize on Barbara’s dream as beyond Randy’s budget and beyond Jane’s restless commitment to Randy. Pokey is said to demand the property be sold and the proceeds be divided, with no interest in summering or wintering with relatives. So, Mother is faced with her own marital decisions, as re-marrying will tear the family fabric, and not re-marrying will erase her own desire for one final adventure.

TACT/The Actors Company Theatre is a serious, professional ensemble with three Co-Artistic Directors, Scott Alan Evans, Cynthia Harris, and Jenn Thompson. Mr. Evans directed this play. Their productions are thought-provoking, long after you’ve left the theatre, and the acting is compelling and convincing. It always seemed in Children that there were seven, rather than four characters, as cars could be heard coming and going from the offstage driveway, with the quartet of actors coming and going, as well. Ms. Lawrence portrayed a nurturing mother with a womanly yearning of her own. Ms. Nichols exuded a distracted psyche and moody impatience. Mr. Thieriot was edgy and kinetic, and Ms. Wright was prim and fidgety. They were truly fascinating to watch. Kudos to all, and kudos to A. R. Gurney.

Darrie Lawrence, Lynn Wright,
Margaret Nichols, Richard Thieriot
in TACT Theatre's "CHILDREN"
by A. R. Gurney
Courtesy of Stephen Kunken

Richard Thieriot and Lynn Wright
in TACT Theatre's "CHILDREN"
by A. R. Gurney
Courtesy of Stephen Kunken

Darrie Lawrence and Margaret Nichols
in TACT Theatre's "CHILDREN"
by A. R. Gurney
Courtesy of Stephen Kunken

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at