The landscape of family can be a minefield, especially family steeped in a tradition of the “stiff upper lip” like the White Anglo Saxon Protestants. A.R. Gurney (more casually known as “Pete”) has been traversing this terrain, analyzing WASP culture and customs like a field anthropologist throughout his long career. In “Children,” his first play written in 1974, ARG launches his analysis from John Cheever’s short story, “Goodbye, My Brother.”
The WASPs in ARG’s world live in changing times. In “Children,” enjoying a revival in a TACT production at The Beckett Theatre through November 20th, a wealthy family gathers at their summer home on an island off the Massachusetts coast on the weekend of the 4th of July, 1970.
Margaret Nichols, Richard Thieriot and Darrie Lawrence. Photos © TACT
These children of privilege each face the societal changes differently.
Mother (Darrie Lawrence), having lived by the rules, now hopes for more. She raised children who disappoint in their messy ordinariness and is finally ready to follow her passion by marrying “Uncle” Bill.
Her daughter, Barbara (Margaret Nichols) is recently divorced and would like to winterize the summer house so she could move out of her Boston apartment and spend time with an old flame on the island. Barbara’s hedonism is at odds with her sense of propriety. “We have rules,” she says. Later she adds, “We’re repressive. That’s what my therapist says.”
Margaret Nichols and Darrie Lawrence
Brother Randy (Richard Thieriot), a jock and schoolteacher, plays competitively, if not fairly. Winning at tennis is his finest ambition, as if all his good breeding has degenerated into childish aggressiveness. He wants nothing more than to repave the neglected tennis courts at the house.
Like the unseen younger brother, Pokey, Randy’s wife Jane (Lynn Wright), thinks there should be more to life than the restrictive traditions, the country club dances, the games and score keeping.
Lynn Wright and Richard Thieriot prepare to go to the Country Club ball
Pokey, the matriarch’s favorite and most troublesome child, aims to throw a wrench in all their plans.
TACT- The Actors Company Theatre- is a talented young company, formed in 1992. Richard Thieriot is a guest in this cast made up of old TACT hands. In “Children” under the direction of Scott Alan Evans and with the WASP-appropriate period costumes designed by Haley Leiberman, they have ably created a time capsule of a uneasy if very comfortably well-off family.
Darrie Lawrence, Lynn Wright, Margaret Nichols and Richard Thieriot
Visit http://tactnyc.org/ to learn more about “Children”