Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Off-Broadway Review: All Our Children

John Glover, Karl Kenzler and Sam Lila. Photo: Maria-Baranova

All Our Children
By Stephen Unwin
Directed by Ethan McSweeny 
Sheen Center, through May 12

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
After an acclaimed run in London's West End, the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture presents the American premiere production of Stephen Unwin's new play, All Our Children.  It is Germany, 1941 and the Nazis are getting rid of children it considers to be a burden, like those with any handicaps or illnesses such as epilepsy, thanks to a program headed by Dr. Victor Franz (Karl Kenzler).  He runs a clinic where parents are told their children will receive care, but instead, the children are systematically exterminated.

The parents should be grateful for being relieved of their burden, according to Eric (Sam Lilia), Franz's SS agent masquerading as a doctor and the doctor's assistant. Not all are, however, especially Elizabeth (Tasha Lawrence), a mother who entrusted her son to the clinic's care over a year ago and who would desperately like to visit her beloved boy.

Franz's maid, Martha (Jennifer Dundas), is oblivious to what really takes place at the clinic, but she doesn't trust Eric, who hopes to create some good Arian stock by coupling with her 15-year-old daughter. The one person who speaks out against the atrocities is Catholic Bishop Von Galen (John Glover).

What Are the Highlights?
A glimpse at a little-known part of the Holocaust.
Unwin includes all the various perspectives -- Eric represents the regime, Franz believes what he is doing is justified, Martha has no clue, Elizabeth embodies the victims and von Galen is the moral compass. The result is a thorough look at the situation.

Set Designer Lee Savage's backdrop of towering file cabinets brings home the enormity of the numbers of files contained within them.

Lawrence is compelling in emotional swings that range from the polite, grateful woman who brings cookies to thank the nice doctor, to the grief-stricken mother who wants him held accountable.

What Are the Lowlights?
The script could use a rewrite. The first half hour drags and doesn't make clear what is happening. While Kenzler deserves and award for the "most realistic sounding cough," we get tired of other characters commenting on it. 
The topic of doctors making choices about who gets to live and die is relevant in the face of recent headlines concerning after-birth abortion and euthanasia of the elderly.

More information:
Von Galen was a real-life Catholic bishop who spoke out for the some 20,000 children and young persons who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Additional credits:
Lighting Design by Scott Bolman; Costume Design by Tracy Christensen; Sound Design by Lindsay Jones

The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture (www.sheencenter.org) is a New York City arts center located in NoHo that presents a vibrant mix of theater, film, music, art and talk events. A project of the Archdiocese of New York, The Sheen Center serves all New Yorkers by presenting performances and artists that reflect the true, the good, and the beautiful. Named for the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, best remembered as an inspirational author, radio host and two-time Emmy Award-winning television personality, The Sheen Center reflects his modern-day approach to contemporary topics. The Sheen Center is a state-of-the-art theater complex that includes the 270-seat off-Broadway Loreto Theater,

All Our Children plays a limited five-week engagement through May 12 at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker St. at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC) in the Black Box Theater. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, with matinees on Saturday at 2 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. There is a special Tuesday evening performance on April 30 at 7. 

Tickets are $65 and $80: SheenCenter.org; 212-925-2812

OPEN CAPTIONED PERFORMANCES - Thursday May 2 at 7 pm and Saturday. May 4 at 8 pm.  A service for patrons with slight to profound hearing loss. One LCD screen will be visible from any seat in a section of the theater, show what the actors are saying in real time. Assisted listening devices will also be available at all performances.

PARENT-FRIENDLY PERFORMANCES - Sun. May 5 at 3PM and Sat. May 11 at 2PM: At these performances, experienced caregivers will be available to look after neurodiverse children in two separate rooms for children aged 4 to 8 and 9 to 12+ so parents and caregivers can enjoy the show. Children of all abilities are welcome.

A GALLERY EXHIBITION COMPANION TO ALL OUR CHILDREN 
"Little Differences: The Portrayal Of Children With Disabilities Throughout History" on exhibit through May 3 examines the depiction of children with disabling conditions in a variety of formats across the ages. Whether appearing in works of fine art, literature, media campaigns, or in popular culture, these children were intended to rouse the audience to action. 

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Stong language
-- God's name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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