The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings
A CurtainUp New Jersey Review
The Miracle Worker

Obedience is the gateway through which knowledge enters the mind of a child —  Sullivan

Miracle Worker
Meredith Lipson and Annika Boras (Photo: Shayne Miller)
It was gratifying to see so many young people in the audience that filled the Paper Mill Playhouse on opening night for this stunning revival of William Gibson's play about 20 year-old governess Annie Sullivan and her student Helen Keller, the deaf and blind child destined for renown and greatness. Applause deservedly ended every scene. Another plus was that the performance was enhanced with special audio description for the blind, open captions, and accommodations for the hearing impaired that featured dramatically accomplished "signers" in the far left of the auditorium. And speaking of enhancement, the production is a knockout augmented with the artful use of film and projections. The cleverly expansive unit setting designed by David Zinn is very impressive. Within it, various locations in and around the Keller homestead in Tuscumbia, Alabama move fluidly into view.

Under Susan Fenichell's imaginative and tightly controlled direction, the roles of Sullivan, as played by Anika Boras, and Helen, as played by Meredith Lipson at the performance I saw (Lipson alternates with Lily Maketansky) stand out for their forthright honesty and invigorating vitality. It is no small thing that Boras can make us see the impassioned determination and deliberate toughness that drives Annie even behind those small round dark prescription glasses. What a treat for us to see Lipson, an extraordinarily gifted fifth-grader tackle the difficult role of Helen with such richly communicative body language. The fights between Helen and Annie are so real that they appear to be staged without regard for personal injury.

Sullivan was handicapped by poor vision and with re-occurring visions that recall the death of her brother and of growing up in an institution. But she was also an apt pupil and apprentice to a Doctor Anagnos (Stuart Zagnit) at the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston who would recommend her to the Keller family. The core of the play deals with Annie as a supportive companion and teacher for the incorrigible Helen. That we know the positive outcome of the play doesn't stop it from being dramatically compelling as Helen's progress, as well as her retreats, are contained within the frame of a conflicted but concerned family setting.

The play holds our unwavering attention, as it has done with most productions of integrity. The difficulties and obstacles that Sullivan has to overcome in her struggle to break through Helen's impaired senses are consigned to create excellent drama. It is to Gibson's credit that the play and characters are never perceived as maudlin or sappy. Annie's mission is an inspiring one.

The supporting performers, including John Hickok, as the autocratic Captain Keller, Emily Dorsch, as the patient Kate Heller, Beth Dixon, as the impatient Aunt Ev and Will Power, as James, their volatile testy son James, are splendid and bring their own self-contained reality to the drama. Cherelle Cargill and Jordan Barrow are also excellent as the Keller family servants. The Miracle Worker, originally produced on Broadway in 1959 and released as a film in 1962, remains as much of an inspiration and a reminder of human potential in the face of adversity today as do The Diary of Anne Frank and Inherit the Wind, and as such should continue to be produced and revisited with regularity.

The Miracle Worker
  By William Gibson
  Directed by Susan Fenichell

Cast: Annika Boras, Cherelle Cargill, Elijah Isaiah Cook, Beth Dixon, Emily dorsch, will Fowler, John Hickok, Meredith Lipson, Lily Maketansky, Stuart Zagnit
  Scenic and Costume Design: David Zinn
  Lighting Design: Mary Louise Geiger
  Production Design: Jan Hartley
  Sound Design: Randy Hansen
  Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes including intermission
  Paper Mill Playhouse, Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ
  (973) – 376 - 4343 or
  Tickets ($25 - $92)
  Performances Wednesdays at 7:30 PM; Thursdays and Sundays at 2 PM and 7:30 PM; Fridays at 8 PM; and Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM
  Opened Sunday 01/27/08; Ends 02/24/08
  Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 01/27/08

Jersey Boys
The Little Mermaid
Lion King
Shrek The Musical

The  Playbill Broadway YearBook
The Playbill Broadway YearBook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

The Broadway Theatre Archive>


©Copyright 2008, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from