Review: Children’s Creative Center’s “Talking With…” Provides Escape and Reflection

Children's Creative Center
Image courtesy of the Children’s Creative Center.

The Children’s Creative Center (CCC), a beloved Ann Arbor childcare facility, has long had an active secondary role as a rehearsal and performance space for members of the Michigan theatre community. This weekend, the theatre community is giving back to them. As a virtual fundraiser for their scholarship fund, the CCC is presenting monologues Jane Martin’s acclaimed play, “Talking With…” The selected monologues deal with many universal themes that have perhaps come into sharper focus this past year: love, loss, isolation, home, aging, childbirth and more.

Each of the six actors performed their 10-minute monologues from their own homes in Ann Arbor, Chicago, and New York, accompanied by an array of unusual props: several lamps, a glass bowl full of marbles, cleaning supplies, and a MacDonald’s drink. But these props served mostly as intensifiers and small additions to the main events: Jane Martin’s funny, poignant, witty writing, and wonderful acting.

Some of the monologues had extra meaning because they made us think about how the pandemic has affected us. In “Clear Glass Marbles”, Kathleen Beardmore touchingly describes the decision her character’s terminally ill mother makes to stay in her bedroom until her passing. This, of course, made me think of the isolation many of us have experienced this past year, and the helplessness we’ve felt watching the coronavirus destroy so many lives. Heather Liebal gives a sweet, heartfelt performance in “Scraps” as a woman who escapes her stifling, boring existence through a literary fantasy world. I think we’ve all been doing a lot more escaping into fictional materials this year.

Children's Creative Center
Image courtesy of the Children’s Creative Center.

For those of us in the performing arts, who haven’t played to a crowd in a year, Denyse Clayton’s performance of “Fifteen Minutes”, about the actor’s relationship to the audience, was particularly moving and almost nostalgic. Sasha Lazare, who actually gave birth to her daughter just 48 hours after recording her monologue, “Dragons”, skillfully captured a mother-to-be’s worry and resilience. In “Lamps”, which highlights the little things in life that bring us joy, Ellen Finch’s warm, tender performance reminds us to find and embrace the simple pleasures.

Last but certainly not least was CCC’s owner and director Lauri Atwood, also a respected actor and storyteller. Her sweet, earnest ode to MacDonald’s in “French Fries” was a beautiful illustration of finding a home anywhere you can.

Director Cassie Mann and producer Suzi Peterson have partnered to create a collection of monologues that flow together wonderfully, while also being distinct and compact vignettes. “Talking With…” provides both a wonderful escape and a chance to reflect on what we’ve gone through this year, and both are offered up with skill, artistry, and love.

For more information on what the Children’s Creative Center does and to donate to their cause, check out their website. To stay up to date on the latest from the Children’s Creative Center, follow them on Facebook.