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A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Miracle Worker
Under Susan Fenichell's imaginative and tightly controlled direction, the roles of Sullivan, as played by Anika Boras, and Helen, as played by Meredith Lipson at the performance I saw (Lipson alternates with Lily Maketansky) stand out for their forthright honesty and invigorating vitality. It is no small thing that Boras can make us see the impassioned determination and deliberate toughness that drives Annie even behind those small round dark prescription glasses. What a treat for us to see Lipson, an extraordinarily gifted fifth-grader tackle the difficult role of Helen with such richly communicative body language. The fights between Helen and Annie are so real that they appear to be staged without regard for personal injury.
Sullivan was handicapped by poor vision and with re-occurring visions that recall the death of her brother and of growing up in an institution. But she was also an apt pupil and apprentice to a Doctor Anagnos (Stuart Zagnit) at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston who would recommend her to the Keller family. The core of the play deals with Annie as a supportive companion and teacher for the incorrigible Helen. That we know the positive outcome of the play doesn't stop it from being dramatically compelling as Helen's progress, as well as her retreats, are contained within the frame of a conflicted but concerned family setting.
The play holds our unwavering attention, as it has done with most productions of integrity. The difficulties and obstacles that Sullivan has to overcome in her struggle to break through Helen's impaired senses are consigned to create excellent drama. It is to Gibson's credit that the play and characters are never perceived as maudlin or sappy. Annie's mission is an inspiring one.
The supporting performers, including John Hickok, as the autocratic Captain Keller, Emily Dorsch, as the patient Kate Heller, Beth Dixon, as the impatient Aunt Ev and Will Power, as James, their volatile testy son James, are splendid and bring their own self-contained reality to the drama. Cherelle Cargill and Jordan Barrow are also excellent as the Keller family servants. The Miracle Worker, originally produced on Broadway in 1959 and released as a film in 1962, remains as much of an inspiration and a reminder of human potential in the face of adversity today as do The Diary of Anne Frank and Inherit the Wind, and as such should continue to be produced and revisited with regularity.
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
The Playbill Broadway YearBook
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide