note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Once you’ve seen Lillian Hellman’s THE CHILDREN’S HOUR, you’ll never feel the same about the idyllic Longfellow poem. Longfellow’s children playfully scamper about the house---while Hellman’s wicked, little Mary Tilford manufactures trouble. The Our Place Theatre production (playing thru June 13th as part of the African American Theatre Festival) has some compelling performances to recommend it. The subject matter (a “scandal” about two women being lovers) is hardly shocking anymore but the ruin caused by Mary’s lies certainly resonates today. Think of the Fells Acres accusations about child abuse and the travesty of justice that ensued.
Director Jacqui Parker gets fine performances from Emilie Battle and Abigail Walter as the hard working teachers and best friends whose school for girls is the setting for THE CHILDREN’S HOUR. Emma Romasco is downright chilling as the disturbed teen who tricks her grandmother into supporting her vendetta against the women. June Lewin’s forceful portrayal of the brittle grande dame is one of the highlights of the play. Thomas Martin makes the loyal physician a stalwart presence and Cheyenne Jones makes Mary’s pawn quite believable. The children (from the Joyful Noise Camp Program) add weight to the melodrama and Sharon Squires adds a truly creepy touch, as the aunt who betrays the women in their hour of need.