By Kenneth Jones
03 Mar 2010
|Photo by Joan Marcus|
Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin stars as Helen Keller in the true story that has inspired generations. Breslin ("Little Miss Sunshine") plays the angry and chaotic Helen, the blind and deaf Alabama girl who cannot be controlled by her Victorian parents. Enter 20-year-old Annie Sullivan, played by the doll-eyed Tony Award nominee Alison Pill (Lieutenant of Inishmore), the brash Boston teacher who does battle with Helen and brings forth a transformation that helped make Keller an international symbol of overcoming adversity.
Kate Whoriskey (who shepherded Lynn Nottage's Fabulation and Ruined regionally and Off-Broadway) directs the 50th anniversary production. On three different levels on the oval stage of Circle in the Square — Broadway's only in-the-round venue — Annie and Helen violently wrestle in an effort to bring language to the girl's dark world. (Sometimes furniture gets in the way of their feuds, and sometimes not — Whoriskey suspends set pieces from cables and raises and lowers them as needed.)
Annie also fights with the Kellers, who have treated Helen as a kind of "pet." The teacher seeks to break through to the girl by separating her from her overly protective parents and connecting hand signals to objects and people around her.
Set in Alabama in the 1880s, The Miracle Worker, according to production notes, "tells the story of real-life blind and deaf Medal of Freedom winner Helen Keller, who suddenly lost her sight and hearing at the age of 19 months, and the extraordinary teacher who taught her to communicate with the world, Annie Sullivan."
The original 1959 Broadway production famously starred Anne Bancroft as Irish-American Annie and young Patty Duke as Helen. It won six Tony Awards, including Best Play in 1960. They repeated their work for the film version, each winning an Academy Award. Duke later played Annie in a TV film of the work, with Melissa Gilbert as Helen. A theatrical sequel, Monday After the Miracle, also by Gibson, showed Helen and Annie as adults, dealing with very different issues. Gibson died in 2008.
|photo by Aubrey Reuben|
Pill was Tony-nominated for playing a lovestruck Irish terrorist in the dark comedy The Lieutenant of Inishmore.
The producers previously announced that ten-year-old actress Kyra Ynez Siegel, who has vision loss in one of her eyes, has been cast as the understudy to Breslin in the role of Helen.
The Miracle Worker is produced by David Richenthal, Eric Falkenstein, Randall L. Wreghitt, Barbara & Buddy Freitag/Dan Frishwasser, Joseph J. Grano, Jr., Mallory Factor, Cheryl Lachowicz, Martha Falkenberg, Bruce J. Carusi & Susan Altamore Carusi, Lynn Shaw, David & Sheila Lehrer; in association with Connie Bartlow Kristan, Jamie deRoy/Remmel T. Dickinson and associate producers Rosalind Productions, Inc. and Patty Baker/Anna Czekaj.
The creative team includes scenic designer Derek McLane, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designer Kenneth Posner and hair designer Charles LaPointe. Physical coaching and movement is by Lee Sher. Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen handle original music and sound designer.
Tickets to The Miracle Worker are $117 (including $2 facility charge) and are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200, visiting www.telecharge.com or visiting Circle in the Square Theatre box office at 235 West 50 Street.
The Miracle Worker will play the following schedule. Week of March 1: Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM; Sunday evening at 7 PM; opening night curtain March 3 at 6:30 PM; no performance March 4; Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 PM.
Beginning week of March 8: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7 PM; Friday and Saturday at 8 PM; Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2 PM; Sunday matinees at 3 PM. Dark Monday.
The Miracle Worker is the first Broadway play to offer the D-Scriptive audio system for audience members who are blind or have low vision, as well as the I-Caption system for audience members who are deaf or hard of hearing, both free of charge at every performance.
The show's official website is another Broadway first: it ensures access for all patrons with disabilities.
"Care has been taken to ensure proper contrast in color palettes and choice of typeface to aid users with low vision, and the site functions properly when the design 'style sheets' are deactivated," according to the producers. "This increases usability for patrons who prefer to omit the embedded styling altogether or, alternatively, to use personalized style sheets during their visit."
The production is committed to continually improving the website's accessibility based on feedback from users and partners in the Blind and Deaf communities.