Story: Roz is struggling to make ends meet as the proprietor of a daycare facility. Her only employee, Joy, has taken early education classes and badly wants to work with children, but instead is stifled handling secretarial chores. It doesn’t help that she is Roz’s niece and has a troubled love life that she just as soon her aunt wouldn’t divulge to her mother
So when Anita knocks at the door inquiring whether the center can handle the special needs of her son Noah, Roz is delighted, primarily by the prospect of more revenue. The mention of a possible endowment by Anita further piques Roz’s interest. That is dampened, however, by the arrival of Anita’s husband, Andrew, who seems substantially more skeptical than his wife.
After numerous oblique references to their son and his peculiarities, Noah arrives and immerses himself in the facility’s numerous creative outlets. He seems happy there, and Roz relishes the extra income, so it seems like a good fit, right? Would that it were so simple.
Highlights: Playwright Margaret Stamell’s brief and whimsical, one-act effort is given a crisp world premiere thanks to director Shanara Gabrielle and her quartet of performers who enliven Stamell’s humorous story.
There are noticeable problems with the script if one takes a logical approach to the goings-on. However, Gabrielle’s spirited direction and the enthusiasm of her cast, combined with OnSite’s signature approach to presenting plays that fit specific venues, make this a fun excursion into the realm of pre-schoolers.
Other Info: The relaxed atmosphere of the Downtown Children’s Center, with its colorful array of rooms that welcome tykes to its environs, makes for an enjoyable setting. Stage manager Linda Menard and managing director Kristen Edler shepherd the audience along the festive corridors to enhance the feeling of immersing oneself in Stamell’s tale.
At one hour, it’s a brisk adventure, especially under Gabrielle’s watchful direction. Since we’re right on top of the action, we can see Elizabeth Townsend accentuating the stress in Roz’s life, although playwright Stamell doesn’t really delve too deeply into Roz’ history. Townsend runs with the character, though, and is amusing to observe, especially when the subject of funding is raised.
Julie Layton as Anita charges into the setting with bravado and self-assuredness that slowly evaporate once her husband arrives on the scene. Layton is by turns coy and coaxing, curious and confident as she peppers Roz with questions while avoiding direct answers to the manager’s own inquiries. There’s savvy chemistry in the relationship between Layton’s Anita and Christopher Lawyer as Anita’s husband Andrew, an editor of a psychology journal who also writes an occasional piece for the publication.
As it turns out, Andrew is quite a fascinating and ironic character in his own right, which perhaps we could guess from his colorful tie. In any event, Lawyer brings a proper amount of reservation to the husband who loves his wife but finds her quests somewhat taxing. In other respects, Lawyer and playwright Stamell seem to take the audience into mysterious realms in a fashion that is too clean and convenient, even for a comedy.
Completing the cast is Maggie Conroy, who is a joy to behold, naturally, as the flustered and frustrated Joy. She’s delightfully perplexed as a young woman torn between the proper respect for her boss and aunt and her own desire to make a difference in the lives of the children who attend the day-care center. Conroy has a natural comedic ability that is demonstrated nicely with her character.
OnSite Theatre has carved a creative and clever little niche on the local theater scene with its location-specific pieces, which also most often showcase the story-telling skills of young playwrights. Make sure you arrive on time for Childcare, though, lest you end up in the ‘principal’s’ office.
Group: OnSite Theatre Company
Venue: Downtown Children’s Center, 607 North 22nd Street
Dates: April 5, 6, 12, 13
Tickets: $20; contact 686-0062 or OnSiteTheatre.org
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Kristen Edler