Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Children's Hour"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2000 by Tony Annicone

"The Children's Hour"

Tony Annicone

Lillian Hellman's 1934 classic drama, "The Children's Hour" is the second presentation of Theatre Works season. Director Seann L. Jackson blocks the 14 characters in a cat and mouse chase scenario during the three act drama creating tension in most of the scenes. The story about false rumors and gossip about two innocent teachers spread by a vindictive and vicious student destroying lives is as relevant in the 30's as it is now. The two teachers Karen and Martha (AndreaWhitney and Alisha Martin) accused of an unnatural love for each other by the despicable Mary Tilford (Abigail Robinson) who is aided in her revenge unknowingly by her strong willed grandmother, (Carol Forrest), have their lives ruined and Karen's engagement to Dr. Cardin (John Kaveny) cancelled. Throw in Martha's actress aunt, (Mary Concannon), six girl students and the leering smarmy delivery boy and you have the makings of the h! eavy duty drama that follows.

Young director Seann Jackson gets some powerful perfomances in this show. He is a theatre graduate of URI and his attention to the dramatic tension is shown in the confrontation scenes in the second act between the two teachers, Joe, Mary and her grandmother and in the third between Karen and Joe, then Martha and finally the grandmother. His assistant director Christian O'Neill and stage manager Aaron Heller help Seann in the change of scenes from the school into the Tilford house and back again and keep the backstage smoothly running during the show.

The two teachers roles are portrayed by strong actresses, Andrea Whitney and Alisha Martin. Their hurt and betrayal is well played. Nothing unnatural happens between them but Alisha's character finds out she does have these feelings for the other woman and admits it she kisses Karen on the head, says goodbye and kills herself. Both Andrea and Alisha show the strength of their characters and deliver their dialogue beautifully. Andrea's breakup with Joe and the eventual ruination of her life by Mrs. Tilford and Mary is given a tearful and moving portrayal. Alisha shows her character's transition from strong teacher to a desperate woman very well. Powerhouse actresses in action.

Just as powerful as the two leading ladies are John Kaveny as Joe, Carol Forrest as Mrs. Tilford (the grandmother) and Abigail Robinson as the evil Mary. John is a natural on stage and makes every moment come alive with his energetic performance. He plays Joe as being noble until the end. The kiss goodbye on Karen's forehead foreshadows the goodbye kiss from Martha. Great job! Carol is perfect as the grandmother in charge of the situation. Her timing and strong delivery are wonderful to listen to whether she is speaking to Joe, Mary, the two teachers or her maid. Carol is an actress who makes you listen to her dialogue and realize how dynamic she is on stage. Abigail, a student at Mount St. Charles is an excellent and natural talent at an early age. She plays Mary as an innocent at the beginning of the show but one realizes her true nature when she bullies her two friends. You realize she is a cunning and d! evious girl. The physical scene with Alicia Daigle as Evelyn and Leah Lebrecque as Peggy is outstanding. The two slaps on Alicia's face are delivered perfectly as is the twisting of Leah's arm. Abigail is a gorgeous blond who plays the evil Mary suberbly.

Mary Concannon as Lily, Martha's dippy aunt holds her own with Alisha in the revelation of Martha's being unnatural which sets up the tragic events that follow. Amanda Clarke as Rosalie, the school theif helps Mary by lying about the teacher because of her fear of the evil girl. Jen Delfarno, Chelsea Russell, Michelle Mathewson are the other students in the school appearing in the first act. Last but not least are the talented Monica Daigle as Agatha, the Tilford maid. She makes the maid a strong personality who sees through Mary's fake sweetness and takes no guff from her. Also Matt Simpson's few moments on stage standout because of the leering expression and the pysho look in his eyes. (Matt has played larger roles including the title role in Oliver and Jack in Into The Woods.) Small but memorable comic moments in this drama. Kudos to one and all on "The Children's Hour".

"The Children's Hour" (till 12 November)
THEATRE WORKS AUDITORUIM
78 Earle Street, WOONSOCKET, RHODE ISLAND
1(401) 766-1898

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