Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Miracle Worker

I rarely post reviews about a show. Art is so subjective, and what pleases one person can displease another. But I have to write about the show I saw last night simply because it was some of the best acting work I've seen onstage in a long time.

I saw The Miracle Worker on Broadway, and I was blown away by Alison Pill, who played Annie Sullivan.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Alison had big shoes to fill, because Anne Bancroft had won the Tony and the Academy Award for her performance in the role when it first opened on Broadway and was later filmed in the '60s.

Also, I did the show when I was a kid, playing Helen Keller, and so I have very fond memories of Gina DeMarco, who played "my" Annie.

But Alison made it her own, and she was a revelation!

I have never seen an actor so fully in the moment, so present, so spontaneously alive! She entered each moment, each scene as if she had no idea what was going to happen next, and that is something we all strive to do as actors in the theatre. But often you can see the striving. Something can seem too practiced, too memorized, but not Miss Pill's performance. She was fresh and full of vigor! With each breath, she filled the theatre and drew us into Annie's first experiences with the Keller family as she was having them!

I've seen Alison's work in HBO's "In Treatment" and in films like "Pieces of April," and "Dan in Real Life," and she always does great character work, but her portrayal as Annie Sullivan is a tour de force. It is not to be missed!

I must also give kudos to the rest of the cast: Abigal Breslin as Helen, Lance Chantiles-Wertz as Jimmie, Michael Cummings as Percy, Elizabeth Franz as Aunt Ev, Yvette Ganier as Viney, Simone Joy Jones as Martha, Matthew Modine, who could've fallen prey to the blow-hard character of Captain Keller, Helen's father, but he gave a wonderfully diverse and passionate performance, Jennifer Morrison as Helen's mother Kate, Daniel Oreskes as Doctor/Anagnos, and Tobias Segal as James. Every single performer was excellent!

I heartily recommend this show, though I must warn it is in "the round," 360 degrees of theatre, which again, Alison Pill used brilliantly. It was incredibly rare to see her back, and I could tell she kept herself fully open to the audience, which is probably what also heightened the experience for me. A great lesson.

So be forewarned that there may be some scenes not fully accessible because of the staging. For example, Helen's back was to our side of the theatre (row H 122) during the famous "Wa Wa" scene, so we couldn't see her face when the revelation hit. Likewise, the famous breakfast fight was staged towards my side of the theatre, so about half the house couldn't see their faces for much of it. Tricky. But then some folks were 3 feet away from the actors, because the stage was right at arm's length from the front row, which was really fascinating too.

It was a great show, and I would definitely see it again.

No comments: