Review: IRT's 'The Miracle Worker'

May 3, 2012
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That angelic face you see on the posters for the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s “The Miracle Worker” (through May 20) is clearly false advertising. The Helen Keller encountered in the play is more hellion than saint, kicking and soundlessly screaming her way through her adolescence and, for most of the time, resisting the efforts of teacher Annie Sullivan to introduce the foreign concept of “communication.”

It gets ugly on the IRT stage, and their battles are choreographed and performed with an edge-of-the-seat excitement that would put a WWF fan on seat’s edge.

Sure, we know what’s going to happen at the water pump at play’s end. But thanks to 12-year-old Ciarra Krohne, Helen’s breakthrough never seems a foregone conclusion. One could argue that the make-or-break moment for any production of “The Miracle Worker” comes in the casting of Helen Keller. And the actress found for the part is a feisty gem.

As her opponent/teacher, IRT newcomer Nora Fiffer is less successful, finding the accent but not the heart or the subtlety in Sullivan. Granted, she also gets the bulk of the lines that haven’t aged well, including awkwardly staged conversations with her late brother. She’s also not helped by the rotating house set. Stunning, yes, but its slow spinning also wet-blankets the climax, putting the audience too far ahead of the drama while it waits for the final turn.

Your thoughts?

  • Fabulous Production
    This was the best production I have ever seen. And I've seen quite a few. The young actress playing Helen was stellar. The character of Annie was portrayed in a more modern light, in my opinion, and I think the actress used the outdated lines as she could to find humor in them, adding a modern twist. The cast received a roaring ovation last night at the finish, and many moments of impromptu applause throughout the play and at key moments occurred.
  • C'mon man! Performance
    My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, including Fiffer's.
  • One of the Best
    I agree that this is one of the best productions I have seen at the IRT in a number of years. I thought the staging was ingenious and was not distracted by the movement (though it was always interesting to see how things had changed on the "back side" each time!) I thought each of the actors portrayed their characters in a believable manner, and I was impressed with the physicality of the production. I am a huge IRT fan and plays like this one are the reason I keep coming back for more.
      This production was AMAZING. One of the best I have seen. The actress who portrayed Helen Keller was unbelievable for someone her age. I would love to see it again.
    • Great Show
      I completely agree with Sharon Murphy's comment. I thought the production was outstanding and also thought the rotating set was ingenious. In fact, I wish more sets used something similar. I was impressed with everyone's performance & planned to write to the theater to say so, but perhaps this is the easiest way to make sure all the cast and crew see it. Kudos to all!

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