LAKESHORE REGIONAL NEWS: Door County, Kewaunee County, Manitowoc County, and Sheboygan County

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Hardball ‘The Children’ opens play series in Sturgeon Bay

Critic At Large

Third Avenue Playhouse

Carrie Hitchcock, from left, Alan Kopischke and Sheri Williams Panel were the cast for “The Children” presented by Third Avenue Playhouse.

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – In a cottage in remote England where husband-and-wife nuclear engineers are living years after their nearby plant went bust – or boom – Robin and Hazel subsist on vegetables and bread, deal with power outages and more or less “are.” Their four children reside elsewhere – one daughter especially a thorn. As the play “The Children” opens, Hazel is by herself in the kitchen when suddenly she has a drop-in visitor, Rose, a co-worker from when the boom happened 38 years ago.

Hazel and Rose enter a coy and tricky byplay, a kind of nervous verbal/psychological tennis match of catching up on each other’s lives. Eventually, Robin arrives, and it’s a three-way match with the ball going every which way.

In play are the dynamics of life styles, of health, of sex, of attitudes, of science, of repercussions, of family and of decisions and of mortality.

Comparisons of inconveniences – a nuclear disaster in the play, the COVID-19 pandemic all around us today – were moving shadows around the production of “The Children” that Third Avenue Playhouse presented online Friday night.

It was a live, one-and-done production as part of the professional theater’s “PlayWorks 2021” online play reading series that continues the first and third Fridays of the month until June 25. Info:

By British playwright Lucy Kirkwood, “The Children” is a heavy duty, big-topic, aggressive play that lays a whole lot in the lap of the audience. For a director and players, the predicaments and dilemmas allow for theatrical, muscular hammer-and-tong mental excitement.

Monday night, that was delivered by the realistic/naturalistic nuances, inflections, energies and skills by Carrie Hitchcock and Sheri Williams Panel in the cat-and-mouse of Rose and Hazel, respectively, and Alan Kopischke in the toxicity of Robin.

Astute director Marie Kohler set the table, so to speak, for the performance excellence of the three and provided scene setups as Narrator.

The reading/performance took place remotely from four locations, with Robert Boles, Third Avenue Playhouse co-artistic director, in a fifth location as host and, following the performance, moderator of a talkback.

Talkback participants. (Screenshot)

Monday night’s presentation started with a failure to communicate. For 17 minutes, technical difficulties provided a screen only saying such. Bummer.

When the performance finally was transmitted, it was not clean. Images froze on irregular occasions, meaning lines momentarily vanished into the vapors. Bummer, again. Much did flow, but there were plenty of reminders that the technology being employed has weak points.

Funny/peculiar/odd thing today – to grumble about what is a marvel: The bulk of the play was delivered, and a talkback allowed audience members anywhere to offer input.

What is happening with the series is akin to the Lucy Kirkwood plot. In recent years, Third Avenue Playhouse offered an in-person winter play-reading series calling on pros and experienced players in its talent pool to gather for performances with in-person audiences. The pandemic came along as an unexpected visitor, so the theater shifted to online delivery. Factoring in is a massive renovation of the theater facility, so Third Avenue Playhouse has extended its play reading series from a few weeks to five months.

A big thing is, by going online, greater access is offered to plays. Travel time is zero. Curiosity about titles can be answered. Performers can perform from anyplace.

All this is temporary, Robert Boles reminded the audience Monday night. Third Avenue Playhouse productions will be back, he said, “as God intended – theater up close and personal.”


Creative: Playwright – Lucy Kirkwood; director – Marie Kohler; technical director – Jon Ginnow


Rose – Carrie Hitchcock

Hazel – Sheri Williams Panel

Robin – Alan Kopischke

Narrator – Marie Kohler

Running time: One hour, 45 minutes



Next: “The Fifth of July” by Lanford Wilson, 7 p.m. Feb. 19.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss

Coronavirus News

More Coronavirus

Trending Stories

Your Local Election HQ

More Election

Local Sports

Family Ties: Close knit Lourdes Academy Knights eye state title

UW-Oshkosh men advance in high scoring affair

Sports Xtra: UW-Oshkosh's Fischer talks regular season, WIAC tournament

Gamblers drop weekend finale to Des Moines

High School Sports Xtra: Local 5 Top 5 Plays, Team of the Week

High School Sports Xtra: Recapping boys basketball sectionals, state brackets revealed