“The Miracle Worker” – Hale Centre Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ May 26, 2014


Hale Centre Theatre
Gilbert, AZ

Back in 1957 when William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker” premiered on television and in 1959 when a stage version opened on Broadway, the piece reintroduced blind and deaf Helen Keeler’s touching life story to America.  Helen’s high fever as an infant in the 1880’s left her with the challenging impairments.

The play and it’s story has all but disappeared since its initial splash but Gilbert’s resourceful community theater, the Hale Centre, has revived it in a smashingly successful production.  The company found a trio of fine actors to portray with touching sensitivity and persuasive strength Helen’s perceptive teacher Annie Sullivan, the young girl, and Helen’s determined mother, Kate.

The male actors aren’t as convincing as Helen’s easily riled father, Captain Keeler, and her insightful brother, James, who realizes what Sullivan intuitively understands.  Since the female roles dominate the play and since several emotionally gripping scenes occur between Annie and Helen, the production is a remarkable achievement for one of the Valley’s best community theaters.  This production of “The Miracle Worker” is a rare gem.

After the play debuted and with the award-winning 1962 film, Keeler’s achievement has been credited to Sullivan’s unorthodox teaching methods.  The pair, initially two strongly battling wills, became inseparable.  Helen’s family coddled and allowed her to misbehave until they stumbled upon the formerly blind teacher whose tough treatment opened Helen’s closed but brilliant mind.

Director Diedra Celeste Miranda has used the Gilbert theater’s small square stage to define the confining Keeler household.  Of the three fine actors, most brilliant is Emily Mohney (Mo knee) who is feisty and opinionated as Annie.  Until the moving conclusion, Mohney is unusually harsh on Helen as she must be.  When she opens Helen’s mind to the concept of language, Mohney transitions to genuine love of Helen that closes the show with a moving finale.  Also perfect, is Mohney’s Irish brogue the actress never lets weaver.

No less impressive is fifth grader Clara Moffitt’s Helen.  She rages around convincing audiences she is the tyrant Helen was while hinting subtly at Helen’s bright mind.  Melody Knudson’s is touchingly real as Helen’s conflicted mother.

The Hale Centre’s “The Miracle Worker” is an effective community theater production.  It continues through July 5.  For tickets, call the Hale Centre Theatre box office at 480-497-1181.

Grade: A