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You are here: Home Theatre Reviews & Features 2009-10 Reviews Broadway Review: THE MIRACLE WORKER
Sunday, 14 March 2010 18:22


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Alison Pill and Abigaile Breslin in THE MIRACLE WORKER
Alison Pill and Abigail Breslin in The Miracle Worker
Photo: Joan Marcus
The producers, director and set designer of The Miracle Worker owe their actors an apology. It is due to decisions they made that make this production dead on arrival. Why on earth would you take a play where one character doesn't have any lines, where the audience is reliant upon being able to see facial gestures, and stage that play in the round?

Add to that the fact that the actors are forced to deal with furniture with cables attached to it. The dining room table and its chair in the center of the stage are attached to a pallet that flies as a single unit. The chairs can't be pulled out when actors need to sit at the table. This is all starting to sound like a setup for a bad Helen Keller joke but sadly it's true.

At one point Annie Sullivan, played by Alison Pill is fighting with Helen, played by Abigail Bresland trying to get her to sit at the table. After she gets Helen seated she tries to sit next to her but has no choice but to stand on the chair and drop down into the chair from above. It's absurd.

Director Kate Whoriskey pulls admirable performances from her actors but has allowed Tony Award winning set designer Derek McLane to hamstring the actors as they try and act around this marionette furniture. As if that weren't bad enough, there are doors that come up through traps in the stage floor to represent the doorway to the Sullivan home and to Helen's bedroom. Any of the scenes that took place at the dining room table at center-stage required me to lean back and forth to see on either side of this door frame, most annoying.

Jennifer Morrison, Abigail Breslin and Alison Pill in THE MIRACLE WORKER

Jennifer Morrison, Abigail Breslin and Alison Pill in The Miracle Worker
Photo: Joan Marcus

This production of The Miracle Worker marks the first time the play has returned to Broadway since its debut fifty years ago. After seeing it, I understand why. It wasn't a great play then, it isn't a great play now. The characters are actually caricatures of characters. When that moment comes at the end of the play when Helen finally realizes what Sullivan has been doing with her hands all this time, the moment falls flat.
In case you've been under a rock somewhere, The Miracle Worker tells the story of young Helen Keller who loses both sight and hearing at an early age due to a then unknown illness now thought to be scarlet fever or meningitis. Annie Sullivan has been assigned to work with her to try and communicate and teach her. The play culminates after just a month of working with her when she is able to get Helen to understand the corelation between the signing in her hand and the object it describes, in this case water. Sullivan and Keller ultimately spent 49 years together as teacher, nanny and ultimately companion.

Ms. Pill and Ms. Breslind in their respective roles give outstanding performances. In his Broadway debut, Matthew Modine as the angry Captain Keller handles the role adroitly. Jennifer Morrison is Kate Keller, Helen's cloistering mother, who dutifully clings to her daughter's status quo rather than confront her to make her life better. Elizabeth Franz is the plucky Aunt Ev and Tobias Segal is Captain Keller's angry and pent up son from a previous marriage.

While I'm not sure The Miracle Worker ever would have been a box-office blockbuster it certainly could have been a lot more than it is.


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Read the full production credits at the Internet Broadway Database.
Last modified on Saturday, 15 May 2010 14:37