The Miracle Worker
Valencia College, Orlando, FL
by William Gibson
Directed by Julia Gagne
Starring Rania Danielle and Alyssa Mason
Life was more Darwinian a hundred years ago than today; things we fix with little effort would have doomed you to a life of misery. Case in point: down in rural Alabama baby Helen (Danielle) has a fever, rendering her blind, deaf and effectively dumb. Her parents (Alyssa Doweling and Sean Michael Drake) are heartbroken; they have money but little hope and that lessens with every specialist visit. Finally, they are recommended to a doctor in far off Boston. No doubt he’s a Yankee but by now they’ll grasp at any straw. Boston sends them young and untested Annie Sullivan (Mason). She’s blind herself, orphaned and very much alone in this strange land. But she takes no nonsense, and sets out on two tasks: reaching isolate Helen, and keeping her well-meaning family at bay.
We all know how this ends. Helen Keller became a sensation, earned a degree, and began the slow journey of bringing the deaf and blind into the wider world. I was most impressed by the young Ms. Dannielle. She carried the show on her wordless stumbling, crying and expertly acted children’s resistance to authority. Equally impressive was Mason and the discipline she applied to Helen. It’s what any normal parent would apply to their own recalcitrant kids, but here is was perceived as an insult. Little Helen was one problem, but her parents a much larger one: they treated Helen as an object to be pitied and humored. Annie was able to carve some space, and when she showed Helen behaving at table like a normal child, they caved in. Well written and executed, this moving story was supported by excellent work from the supporting cast. Mr. Drakes Captain Keller may still have been fighting the civil war, but he cared for his family. His son James (Brandon Wardeh) is roundly disliked; he’s just a bit too pushy until he’s not, then he’s a bit too fawning. Lakayla Patterson and Johnathan Vinson played the local children assigned to play with Helen; they were cute and quick and added a wonderful embellishment to the story. The cutaway house set was bright and airy and even had its own lawn, and transformation from space to space went smoothly. It’s a touching story, well presented and one to make you think.