by Noah Slayter, Teens and Theatre Company
“Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore? I was like that ship before my education began,” said Helen Keller in her autobiography “The Story of My Life.” Dominion High School’s production of “The Miracle Worker” was filled with genuine acting and talented tech, to give a true understanding of the miracle that happened in the old Alabama town of Tuscumbia.
“The Miracle Worker” is the story of Helen Keller a deaf-blind girl and her “miracle worker” teacher, Annie Sullivan. The title comes from Mark Twain who first called Sullivan “the miracle worker,” and the plot comes from Helen Keller’s autobiography “The Story of My Life.” There have been many productions of “The Miracle Worker” including a Broadway production in 1959 and a movie in 1962 staring Patty Duke as Helen Keller.
The character of Annie Sullivan has a difficult character arc as she moves from pitying Helen to loving her. There are some constants though since Annie never wishes to change Helen’s dynamic nature, but instead give her a voice. Noelle Hunter played Sullivan with these themes in mind and portrayed Annie’s struggle connecting with Helen very well.
Noelle’s counterpart, Saskia Hunter, had great physicality. Although her character never spoke, that did not mean she wasn’t heard. Saskia used her whole body to express the character’s emotions and wants, and it always appeared that she was blind. It is not an easy feat to realistically stumble around and bang into things even though you can obviously see them.
Whenever the two Hunters were on stage together, there was certain to be something comical, either a witty comment delivered hilariously from Noelle or the pervasive physical comedy from Saskia. This delighted the audience with giggles and chuckles that brightened even the dreariest of scenes.
The set was well constructed. It clearly took quite a beating, yet held firm throughout the play. The background lighting set the time and mood for every scene. A yellow, classic, sun-up feel for the day and a blueish, purple background for the night. This enhanced the audience’s experience so they did not have to ascertain the scene’s time of day.
The entire cast of “The Miracle Worker” put a great deal of effort into their characters. Noelle and Saskia Hunter knew their characters well and the themes that went with each. They did an exceptional job portraying the intricacies of the relationship of Helen and Annie; a relationship that set a new tone of how we treat the physically disabled. The comedic timing for both actors was excellent. The technical aspects of the show overall added to the enjoyment of the performance.
Helen Keller gave gave a voice to the voiceless. This is the heart of the story, and our nation’s soul.
[Noah Slayter is a member of Teens and Theatre Company. This review of the Dec. 2 performance at Dominion High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]