Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Miracle Worker

The current revival of William Gibson's most famous play, The Miracle Worker, opened last night to some pretty harsh reviews.  Most critics (I haven't yet seen the show, so I don't yet have an opinion) seem to agree that, while an in-the-round staging had the potential to make this show brilliant, this aspect of the production got in the way more than it helped.  The text itself has always been a problem, to some extent, because of the language barrier inherent to the story, but where most productions find a way to make it work, this production appears not to have been successful at this.

In addition, Ben Brantley of the New York Times, complained that the production has no particular focus.  All actors remain onstage for the bulk of the performance, sitting on the perimeter when not active in a scene, with the lights illuminating the entire stage most of the time.  Scenery simply lowers from the ceiling to change time and place, and then raises up again when no longer needed.  This lack of focus, however, has not taken away from the power of the two main performances.  While some think Abigail Breslin may be too old for the part (she's eleven while the character is only six), others think this could be an asset to a performance of the character, showing how menacing her problems could make her.  Alison Pill, known for playing strong, independent women, continues her streak here as Boston-Irish Catholic Annie Sullivan, Helen's teacher.

How does this affect my predictions?  First, I am no longer projecting a Best Revival nomination for the show -- that slot has now gone to Brighton Beach Memoirs and the lighting design nomination I had called for the show is now going to The Royal Family.  Also, Kate Whoriskey, who I considered a threat to the director category, is no longer in that league.  My predictions for Pill and Breslin as Best Actress and Best Featured Actress nominees, however, still stand.  After tonight's opening of Martin McDonagh's A Behanding in Spokane, I will post a third set of predictions, given what will then be some updated buzz.

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