As cultural institutions go, there’s nothing more fun to satirize than school. We all suffered through it, so of course we all love to dwell on it. Thus the considerable—if morbid—charm of CollaborationTown’s Children at Play, a new tragicomedy that revels in all things scholastic and adolescent.
Moving from the classroom to the kitchen to the shower to the gym with cinematic ease, Children at Play follows five New York public-school students (all played by grown-ups) from the sixth grade through high school. There’s a drama nerd, her queen-y boyfriend, a Chernobyl survivor, a would-be artist, and Morgan Nickelfleck Gladystone (the excellent Susan Louise O’Connor), a smarty-pants whose personal turmoil ends up front and center.
Alternately campy and down to earth, playwright Jordan Seavey’s script is luminous but looonng, leading its characters through anorexia, student-teacher flings, parental troubles, sexuality drama, etc. Though the plot expands to unwieldy proportions, the energetic ensemble, under the direction of Scott Ebersold, is a constant pleasure to watch. And if ever a show was lucky to be playing in a basement space, this is the one; the concrete-walled Living Theatre feels just like a bleak schoolroom—the sort of place we dearly love to hate.