Thursday, April 4, 2013

CHILDCARE • OnSite Theatre Company

OnSite Theatre Company, like the name suggests, specializes in site-specific theatre -- very cool and quite exceptional in the local area.  Their latest offering is a world premiere that takes place at the Downtown Children's Center.

We start out meeting Joy (Maggie Conroy) and her aunt Roz (Elizabeth Townsend), who runs a daycare facility that's in need of more clients.  Roz is desperate to beef up the enrollment because the daycare's board has been on her about bringing in more revenue.  Her niece has been taking early childhood education classes and would love a shot at handling a class or two, but Roz insists she needs Joy at the front desk handling the secretarial duties.  Joy has also had some trouble in the boyfriend department, and is trying to keep the details from Roz because she doesn't want any information passed along to her mother.

Christopher Lawyer (Andrew) and Julie Layton (Anita).
Photo credit: Kristen Edler
While these two talk in the daycare's reception area, we learn that Roz's chances for some extra income might be looking up.  She's waiting for a couple with an appointment to check out the facility.  Maybe they'll bring in another kid to the center which = more $$$.  After awhile Anita (Julie Layton) arrives.  She's anxious and jumpy when she meets Roz, worried about finding an appropriate place for her son, Noah.  She shows up alone, telling Roz that her husband Andrew (Christopher Lawyer) and their son will be there shortly.  Anita indicates that her son may require some special attention, but as much as Roz tries, she can't get a straight answer from Anita about exactly why special attention would be necessary.  According to Anita, Noah is three years old -- basically, and a normal boy… just kind of different.

Julie Layton (Anita) and Elizabeth Townsend (Roz).
Photo credit: Kristen Edler
As the audience follows the actors through several rooms of the Center, the rest of the play unfurls with revelations about Noah.  Joy's secrets about her boyfriend also come to light, along with a few secrets of Anita and Andrew's.

Director Shanara Gabrielle does a marvelous job utilizing the space at the Downtown Children’s Center, and fear not -- there are guides that cue the audience when and where to follow the action.  The cast, considering the audience is no more than a few feet away from them, did an excellent job in not only accommodating the onlookers, but throwing themselves into their roles with gusto.  Conroy is delightful as Joy, trying to be a good employee while figuring out her personal life.  Lawyer as Andrew really throws himself into his character and seems to be having a blast while doing it.  It's certainly a blast to watch him.  Layton's Anita shows a full range of emotion as a tense wife and mom, looking for a little respite from her everyday life for a few days a week, and Townsend as Roz is entertaining to watch in her quest to win over these potential clients and rack up some money for the daycare.

This play is only an hour, and while the resolution at the end may be a little too convenient, it's a very entertaining night out, and getting to see anything OnSite does pretty much guarantees a unique theatre-going experience.

Christopher Lawyer (Andrew) and Maggie Conroy (Joy).
Photo credit: Kristen Edler

Written by Margaret Stamell
Directed by Shanara Gabrielle
Downtown Children’s Center, 607 North 22nd Street, St. Louis
through April 13 | tickets: $20
Performances Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm

Maggie Conroy (Joy), Christopher Lawyer (Andrew), Julie Layton (Anita) and Elizabeth Townsend* (Roz).
* Member Actors' Equity Association

Stage manager, Linda Menard.


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