By Dee Jae Cox
The Miracle Worker was first produced in 1959, but the story is timeless.
And some classics are most certainly worth restaging. William Gibson’s, “The Miracle Worker” is by far one of them. Set in the early part of the twentieth century, it tells the story of Helen Keller, a deaf, blind and mute child that was introduced to language and the power of critical thinking by her teacher Annie Sullivan. It’s a moving and inspirational story and Desert Theatreworks makes a solid effort to stage this drama with the integrity that it deserves.
Patricia Cromwell as Annie Sullivan and Violet Feath as Helen Keller are a magical duo. With the exception of a few opening night glitches, they were both captivating and engaging as the historical teacher and student who proved that miracles do happen with faith and persistence. Cromwell’s bravado and determination showcases the true essence of who Annie Sullivan was believed to be. Her skill for dialect and her likeable demeanor give such heart to a character that had suffered more than one set back in her life. Violet Feath had me mesmerized from her first walk on to the stage. Without any really ‘lines’ in the show, she beautifully communicated the frustrations and brilliance of a child who was trapped in a dark world until given the light of language. It was a big role for a little girl and she managed it with great talent and professionalism.
Tanner Lieser as James Keller was a favorite. While his moments of snide comments and apparent disregard for his ‘half’ sister, could seem a bit callused, Leiser played the role to perfection. And the brief insights to his own inner struggles as the ‘ignored’ son, gave great sympathy to the character. I liked Jimmy and felt for his fate as all focus was placed on Helen. Kate Keller (Mari Kerber) was a mother long on love and short on options when she brought Annie Sullivan home to teach her lost child. And Kerber plays her with all of the inner strength and fortitude that this character deserves.
I found the staging to be a bit too busy in the first act, with the furniture seeming to be in constant motion and was happy that it settled into a steady placement by Act 2. The soundtrack voices from Annie’s past had a tin echo quality that was disturbing, though probably intentional. Overall Desert Theatreworks is a professional company who brings quality theatre to the Coachella Valley. This is a production that can be enjoyed by all who appreciate a timeless story and some real acting talent.
The Miracle Worker, a production of Desert Theatreworks, is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through May 16th, at the Arthur Newman Theatre at the Joslyn Center, located at 73750 Catalina Way, in Palm Desert.
For Reservations: call 760-980-1455, or visit www.dtworks.org.
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project and the host of KPTR 1450’s hit radio show, “California Woman 411” in Palm Springs.