THE MIRACLE WORKER by William Gibson, directed by Leah Cherniak, with Carmen Grant, Mary Krohnert, Stephanie Belding, Paul Braunstein, Greg Ellwand, Laurel Paetz, Martha Ross and Brian Sills. Presented by the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People (165 Front East). Runs to December 16, Saturday 2 pm and some 7 pm, Sunday 11 am and 3 pm (except November 17). $18-$28. 416-862-2222. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The miracle worker, william Gibson's play about the deaf, blind and speechless Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, is so well known that it's hard to approach -- as a director or audience member -- with new eyes. But director Leah Cherniak offers a textured, multi-faceted production that makes it fresh.Gibson's script screams out for a naturalistic production -- main house dining table, Helen's bedroom, water pump -- and Cherniak delivers that but adds some multimedia elements to enhance the work's themes.
Projected throughout the play onto two vertical screens on either side of the stage are quotes from Keller's letters, pictures of the real Keller and Sullivan and images and words reflecting the play's motifs of water, food, love and knowledge.
True, these elements, designed by Cylla von Tiedemann, sometimes distract from the main action (it helps to be sitting further back in the theatre so you won't be watching the show tennis-match-style). But they also underscore key elements, as when a huge picture of Keller on one panel confronts Sullivan on the other while there's a climactic showdown at the dinner table onstage.
The heart-tugging conclusion, too, is an inspirational and richly theatrical mix of theatre and history.
As for the onstage action, Cherniak coaxes sensitive performances from the actors. At the centre, Carmen Grant's clear-voiced, no-nonsense Annie contrasts well with those around her, including Greg Ellwand's pompous father, Stephanie Belding's sensitive and sympathetic mother, Paul Braunstein's bitter half-brother and Mary Krohnert's stubborn, instinctual Helen. email@example.com