Little Children Dream of God
Reviewed by Terry Morgan
The Road on Magnolia
Through April 15th
With its plot involving the fate of a foreign refugee seeking a new life in America, Jeff Augustin’s Little Children Dream of God couldn’t be timelier. It gets a solid production from the Road Theatre Company in this West Coast premiere and is full of strong performances, but something curiously flat in the main storyline keeps it from attaining its full potential.
Having arrived in Miami after floating across the sea from Haiti on a tire, pregnant Sula (Jaquita Ta’le) seeks out a man who supposedly helps refugees. Instead, she encounters the brusque but kind Carolyn (Blaire Chandler), who assists with the birth of her baby. Carolyn also introduces her to Joel (Hari Williams), the son of the man she’d been looking for. Joel sets her up in his apartment building and quickly falls for his new mysterious neighbor. What he doesn’t know is that she’s on the run from her violent husband, who’ll do anything to find her.
Ta’le does nice work as the no-nonsense Sula, delivering a credible Haitian accent and even pulling off a voodoo dance sequence that might look silly in lesser hands. Williams is fine as Joel, but he’s mired in the play’s least successful plotline – the love story, which never seems to catch fire. Chandler is terrific as the quirky Carolyn, a nurse who claims her eleven children were fathered by God. Jonathan Nichols is memorable as a Cuban-American dying in a care facility, and Jonathan Bangs brings welcome humor as the tart apartment resident Vishal. Finally, Latarsha Rose illuminates the complexity of the gentrified Madison, while Sedale Threatt Jr. is appropriately menacing as Man.
Director Andre Barron gets great work from his ensemble and creates some striking visuals — from Sula floating on her tire in the ocean to a moment when her ex suddenly appears behind her like a vengeful demon. Sarah B. Brown’s multilevel set works well as multiple locations, but Yee Eun Nam’s projections seem somewhat underpowered, as if the equipment wasn’t working at full strength. Augustin’s play is vivid and entertaining when it revolves around the supporting characters, but for whatever reason, whenever it returns to the love story it seems to lose its momentum.
There is plenty to enjoy in this production, but one wishes the play was less uneven than it is.
The Road on Magnolia, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood; Thur. 8 p.m., Sat. 3 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. through April 15. www.roadtheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours and 20 minute with an intermission.