The Cuckoo’s Theater Project THE WATER CHILDREN Review—Great Acting in Script Without Depth

Cuckoo's Theater Project THE WATER CHILDREN
Randall (Joe Liolis) reaches out to Megan (Hilary Bernius) as the sociopathic volunteer in his pro-life organization, Dinardi (Tyler Seybold) looks on Photo: Candice Lee Conner

Cuckoo’s Theater Project Chooses Script About Choice vs. Life

How ironic that the premise of The Water Children is of an actress behind her ingénue prime who takes on a part in a right-wing pro-life organization’s promotional ad, despite her convictions-of-sorts.

Acting Powerhouse

It strikes this writer that the same mismatch of acting talent with content is the burden for the superb cast in this production. The Cuckoo’s Theater Project has assembled a powerhouse pool of talent. There is not one actor in this production who is not worth making a mental note of for future roles, even though several seem to have a thin resume to date. The direction by Denise Smolarek is also a standout. This is a production that stages multiple scenes with negligible set or props—keeping it alive and interesting.

Cuckoo's Theater Project THE WATER CHILDREN
Crystal (left- Elizabeth Del Toro) plays a foster child affiliated with the pro-Life organization whom Megan (Hilary Bernius) first encounters in her new gig representing this organization in their infomercial Photo: Candice Lee Conner

Hilary Bernius plays the lead role, Megan, and performs in every scene.  She is absolutely an actress to watch. She makes every scene believable—never over or underacting. She is a large part of the superglue of this play.

That too is true of the male lead, Joe Liolos playing Randall, who is in this story a leader of the pro-Life organization that has hired aging actress Megan, who has a personal history of abortion, to star in their infomercial from their perspective.  The soul of Megan’s child, Chance, is played with so much talent by David Towne that it took this writer quite a bit of time to register how superficial the lines he was served to perform just are.

We also meet the actress’ agent, Carlye Pollack, who later also gives us a great cat performance, but in this first scene delivers a pro-life apologetica from her alleged Liberal perspective. Her soliloquy about how she could never have an abortion now that she is a mother was the first alarm signal to this writer that we were getting served millimeter deep truthiness instead of character development in this script.

Why this script?

It seems like playwright Wendy MacLeod thinks if she throws in enough gotchas about how her play’s characters are less than angels—whether Randall or Megan’s lesbian roommate representing the Left, Melissa Golden—she thinks she is showing complexity. The pile on of bromides became suffocating by play’s end, to this writer.

Chatting up a Cuckoo’s Theatre Project ensemble member prior to the curtain we learned that the theater company is in active debate to select their next season’s theme. This writer says-- Take your time, please.

This might be a top pick play for someone who tires of a Liberal or progressive perspective on Chicago’s stages.  This play may have seemed more relevant when it first opened, but best case explanation is that time makes it appear dated.



Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.


Thru July 8

Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm

*No show on Sunday, June 25th

*There will be Saturday Matinees on July 1st and July 8th at 3pm


At The Vault at Collaboraction Studios in The Flat Iron Arts Building

1579 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago



Box Office: 312-882-8201

Note: This show contains adult content, language, and images regarding abortion and violence.


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