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BTE’s ‘The Children’ offers a thought-provoking play

BLOOMSBURG — As the third production of its 42nd season, the acclaimed Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble is presenting “The Children.”

BTE has 7:30 p.m. performances on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays, now through Feb. 2, at the Alvina Krause Theatre, 226 Center St.

Although this darkly funny drama is titled “The Children,” the production might just as well be sub-titled “Laurie’s final bow.” This production is Laurie McCants’ final Main Stage role before she retires from BTE. One of the company’s co-founders, McCants is joined on stage by fellow co-founders Elizabeth Dowd and James Goode.

Hazel (Dowd) and Robin (Goode) are married nuclear scientists, living in semi-seclusion in a cozy cottage off the coast of England following a recent atomic meltdown. Turning up unexpected after 38 years is Rose, another old co-worker, who unearths her some old secrets, which spark dormant jealousy and resentment.

Rose eventually requests that Robin and Hazel replace the younger scientists at the plant, so as to spare the younger generation from the almost sure deadly radiation illness. This is a strange request as Robin and Hazel have both grown children and grandchildren to consider, while Rose has always been an unmarried free spirit.

Although time-consuming exposition is needed, the script allows one hour to pass before the real reason for Rose’s abrupt appearance is explained.

The three friends must debate the merits of Rose’s request, and what culpability they would share to future generations of children should another nuclear disaster occur.

British playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s Tony-nominated play has been called “a taut tale of human and atomic meltdown.”

Her script allows the audience (and Hazel) to realize that Robin and Rose have had a fling, as early on, Rose goes to the kitchen cupboard to fetch a glass in the cottage where supposedly she has never been.

The acting among the three co-founders is impeccable. Each finds a reason to depart for an period of time, leaving the other two to discuss, debate, and argue about the merits of Rose’s request.

The final decision is reached only after heated, brisk, and screaming-out dialogue.

Dowd and Goode excel, giving sharp, heart-felt performances, while McCants makes her “swan song” memorable, never allowing her request to sound preachy.

With solid technical support, especially with the design of the isolated cottage, BTE’s production never provides any definitive answers, but raises questions of accountability if future generations of “The Children” must pick up the pieces for messes which are left behind.

While the theme may not be every theatergoers’ idea of carefree entertainment, those who attend will readily discover that “The Children” is a thought-provoking play not easily forgotten.

Following this Sunday’s matinee, BTE will host a Conversation With Laurie McCants at 5 p.m., during which Ensemble guests and audience members can pose questions to Laurie about her 42 year with BTE, as well as her endless travels and eclectic theatrical endeavors.

With a running time of approximately 110 minutes without intermission, BTE has rated “The Children” as “MA” for mature themes, adult humor, and explosive drama.

For more information, call 570-784-8181 or visit www.bte.org.

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