by Lynn on February 23, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

The following reviews were broadcast on February 22, 2013, CIUT FRIDAY MORNING. 89.5 FM : A Double Bill of two Hannah Moscovitch plays: Little One playing at Tarragon Extra Space until March 17 and Other People’s Children playing at Tarragon Extra Space until March 24 and Clybourne Park plays at the Panasonic Theatre until March 3.

The host was Phil Taylor

1) Good Friday morning. It’s time for your theatre fix with Lynn Slotkin, our theatre critic and passionate playgoer.

Hi Lynn. What’s on tap for today?

Three plays. LITTLE ONE and OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN form a Double Bill of plays written by wunderkind playwright, Hannah Moscovitch. I also saw CLYBOURNE PARK which played last year and is being remounted by Studio 180 and is being presented as part of the Off-Mirvish season.

2) Ok, let’s get to it. Tell us about this double bill by Hannah Moscovitch.

It seems to be a mini Moscovitch theatre festival at Tarragon. Last month her full length play THIS IS WAR played at the Tarragon Extra Space.

This month we have two one act plays: LITTLE ONE and OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN. I saw LITTLE ONE before at Summerworks. It’s an atmospheric mystery-thriller.

Aaron and Claire are adopted siblings. They live with their adoptive parents. Aaron is older and protective of Claire but he is wary. She’s a fragile looking young girl but she’s dangerous. She stabbed Aaron for no reason.

He had a cat named Little One and she killed it. Aaron was always calling out to his parents for help or to tell them the latest chilling thing Claire did. So the household is in a constant state of heightened emotion because of Claire who is totally without emotion or a sense of right and wrong—a psychopath in other words.

A couple lives next door. Roger and his mail-order bride Kim Yee. Something not very nice happens there that might connect the two households.

The second play: OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN is about a young power couple and the nanny they hire to take care of their 10 month old daughter Eva. Ilana is the power wife-a lawyer who has taken a maternity leave to have her baby. It’s not an altogether happy experience for her.

Ben is her travelling businessman husband. And Sati is their live-in nanny who has left her family in Sri Lanka to come and work for this couple. Sati has a picture of her three children on her bedside table. She asks for a picture of Eva to put on her bedside table as well. We get the sense that her husband is a sleaze and out of the picture.

3) One act plays are tricky things—you have to say everything in a focused, condensed manner and yet still present a full-bodied story with credible characters. How do these plays do?

Moscovitch has a way with intriguing stories. In the case of LITTLE ONE and OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN, both have crackling good dialogue. In both she delves into the darker aspects of society and manages to make these situations both familiar and frightening. But I could have sworn when I saw LITTLE ONE at SummerWorks, Moscovitch had the story of Claire connected with what happened next door to Roger and Kim Yee.Yet in this re-worked version no such reference is there.

Aaron suggests that he has done something terrible but doesn’t tell us what it is. He is the connection to Claire’s story and Roger and Kim Yee’s story. But in this version Moscovitch leaves a thread dangling and the audience in the dark.


An intriguing play also with a mystery. This is a couple in distress. Ilana is fraught and jumpy as a wife and new mother. Ben travels all the time. He does not seem an attentive husband. He’s critical of Ilana’s abilities. He loves Eva unconditionally. Sati is a gentle, loving woman. Reticent about talking about her family. And there is a mystery too. She has put a picture on the bedside table of another child she took care of.

Is that photo of those three children really her kids or someone else’s, one wonders? She leaves nanny jobs after a short time. Why? She does not tell. Pretty soon there is an emotional triangle between Ben, Ilana and Sati.

This is not a cliché when Moscovitch is handling it. It’s complex and troubling. She has established how desperate Ilana is in motherhood; how paranoid and jealous she is of Sati’s connection to Eva. And our eyebrows knit at Sati as well. I like that mystery and being unsettled.

5) Were you unsettled by both productions of this Double Bill?

Both productions are stylish in their own way but realize the intent of the playwright. In LITTLE ONE, directed by Natasha Mytnowych, there is a constant sense of foreboding. The lighting is very muted. Claire, played beautifully by a spooky Michelle Monteith, is lit by a large flashlight. Monteith holds the flashlight in such a way so that only her face is illuminated in eerie light. The expression is both angelic and demonic.

The voice light and sing-songy and emotionless for the most part. I wouldn’t want to meet her in broad daylight let alone a dark alley.

Aaron is lit with brighter light but still mooted. He is played by Joe Cobden as a twitchy, watchful, worried man. At times I think there is too much jerky dialogue reminiscent of David Mamet regarding Aaron. Moscovitch has her own voice. I would rather hear that than an echo of another writer.

OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN is directed by Paul Lampert. The details in his production are terrific. Ben leaves a coffee cup on a table. The cup is then automatically picked up by Ilana. There is a smart design by Michael Gianfrencesco, who designed both productions. The home of the power couple is sleak, neat, and rich looking in its spareness. The acting is fine. As Ilana Niki Landau is highly strung but fragile too. Ben is played by Gray Powell. Ben is harried and compassionate, And as Sati, Elisa Moolecherry is delicate and wonderfully mysterious.

6) Tell us about CLYBOURNE PARK

Written by American writer, Bruce Norris. Won all sorts of awards for it: Pulitzer, Olivier and Tony.

It takes the play A RAISON IN THE SUN by Lorraine Hansbury (1959) and turns it on its ear. In that play a black family is planning to move into Clybourne Park, a white Chicago suburb. A representative for the Clybourne Park community offers to buy them out.

The community fears that the property value will drop if a black family moves in. The family refuses the offer and moves in anyway.

In the first act of the play CLYBOURNE PARK, Bev and Russ, a white couple, are selling their house. It holds bad memories. Their son served in Korea and endured negative comments from his community of what he did over there. And as a result he killed himself in the house and the family wants out.

Bev and Russ are visited by a representative of the community—one of their neighbours– urging them to take back the offer because the people buying it are black. The fear of plummeting property values hovers in the air.

Russ throws him out. This righteous community did nothing kind for their troubled son and now they can go hang. In Act II, 50 years later, Clybourne Park is a black neighbourhood that is gentrified. A white couple, Lindsey and Steve, have bought the house from the first Act and want to tear it down and build another house.

So a lawyer, a real estate agent the couple who are buying the house and a couple who represent the neighbourhood are all going over the minute details about plans and procedures for the new house.

Initially everyone is polite and friendly, but soon prejudices come out. Clichéd insults are spoken.

Lindsey is trying to make an accommodating point and says that ‘half her friends are black’….stuff like that.

Times have changed, or have they? I love that the play asks the question and answers it in a clever way.

7) Is the play successful in addressing the questions of racism and property?

Yes.You see the overt racism in Act I. The self-righteousness of the community, the well-meaning but insensitiveness of Bev. In Act II we see the pride and respect the residents have for their homes and their history countered by the grandiose plans of the new couple who don’t have a clue or care about history.

Characters in Act II are connected to people 50 years before in Act I. I love that sense of connection and the disconnect as well. Norris is showing how racism is there but in different guises. What the couple in Act II want to do to the house will change the neighbourhood quicker than the skin colour of anyone moving in.

I love how Norris blurs the lines but still makes sharp points.

7) And how does this remount of CLYBOURNE PARK do? It’s being remounted by Studio 180 celebrating 10 years of doing challenging, prickly theatre that makes us sit up straight in our chairs, pay attention and squirm. They do plays that reflect our world. This remount is terrific (as it was when it was first done last year).

Then and now it’s directed by Joel Greenberg. He has a fine eye for detail, relationships, and the delicate dance of subtext and subtlety. It’s grown deeper, matured and still packs a punch. The wonderful cast is full of nuance, moments are full of shading and light. They beautifully realize the simple line that hides a world of stings in Act I and the more confident world of Act II but with just as many stings.

For example, as Bev in Act I, Maria Ricossa is sunny, smiling and eager to be fair-minded to her black housekeeper. But she has no sense of the world of her housekeeper and her lack of knowledge of that world makes her look like a racist.

In Act II Ricossa is now a hip, sharp lawyer and her confidence when she says inappropriate things shows the character’s prejudices in a different light. I loved seeing the two different times in this one performance.

The production is important and so worth a visit.It’s a fine play and this production by Studio 180 does it proud.

Thanks Lynn. That’s Lynn Slotkin our theatre critic and passionate playgoer. You can read Lynn’s blog at

LITTLE ONE plays at the Tarragon Extra Space until March 17.

OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN plays at the Tarragon Extra Space until March 24.

CLYBOURNE PARK plays at the Panasonic Theatre until March 3.

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