Other People’s Children - Niki Landau, Elisa Moolecherry and Gray Powell
Photography by Nir Bareket.Reviewed by James Karas
The Tarragon Theatre is running a mini-festival of the plays of Hannah Moscovitch, its playwright-in-residence, and it has staged two new one-act plays by her. They are Little One and Other People’s Children in a Double Bill.
Little One has two characters, Aaron (Joe Cobden) and Claire (Michelle Monteith), who happen to be two adopted siblings. We are told that Claire is a monster and we quickly realize that she is a full-blown psychopath and perhaps worse, whatever that may be. She unzips a neighbour’s fly, flushes a goldfish down the drain, stabs her brother, stabs herself, kills his cat and so on to incest.
Her brother is the victim of most of this psychotic behavior and he has to put up with his parents’ attempts to justify or minimize the hideousness of his sister’s acts.
We are told a parallel story about a neighbour who has imported a pretty girl from Viet Nam and they appear to be perfectly in love. You know there will be a twist to that tale.
The set is a simple couch and most of the play is done in the dark with a spotlight or a flashlight for illumination. Much of the plot is narrated as opposed to being acted out. Little One struck me as a marvelous short story struggling to become a play and not being entirely successful.
Cobden is an excellent story-teller. His hesitations, vocal intonations and body language stand him well both when acting or simply telling the story. Monteith gets to speak many lines while shining a flashlight in her face. She is an understated psychopath who apologizes for her misbehavior and she does hide a secret wound that may provide an explanation for whatever she is doing.
Natasha Mytnowych directs this journey into darkness.
Other People’s Children is a better structured play that does not rely on narrative for its story. Ilana (NIki Landau) is a sharp-nosed, aggressive and successful lawyer who wants to excel at everything. Her husband Ben (Gray Powell) is a successful businessman (we are not sure what he does) who travels a lot and makes important deals. This powerhouse couple has a daughter and they hire Sati, a nanny to look after her.
Sati (Elisa Moolecherry) is a Tamil engineer with three children. She has left them in Sri Lanka while her husband has gone to Japan under suspicious circumstances. Sati is attractive, intelligent, loving and deferential with some mystery and a few question marks attached to her name.
Moscovitch develops quite a marvelous play around the emotional and sexual warfare among the three characters. The child becomes very attached to her nanny sparking jealousy in Ilana. Ben and Sati become attracted to each other while there is sexual tension between him and his wife. The whole thing comes to a dramatic climax when it is discovered that the baby is sucking Sati’s nipple. This is a startling combination of the sexual and the ultimately maternal instinct.
The play is too short to develop the characters completely and there are some loose ends at the end but it is a fascinating work nonetheless.
Moolecherry is wonderful as Sati. She combines modesty and manipulation perfectly. Landau is all ambition, jealousy and sex while Ben is trying to negotiate the dangerous waters between an overambitious lawyer, his mother (not seen in the play) and the attractive and very interesting nanny.
Paul Lampert directs the play at a very brisk pace with its numerous costume changes
A very interesting and stimulating evening at the theatre.______
Little One and Other People’s Children by Hannah Moscovitch opened on February 21, and will run until March 24, 2013 at the Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.