The production of The Miracle Worker, a play by William Gibson, may have had a short run at the Southampton Cultural Center, but to the audiences that saw it along with the 700 East End students who attended special performances, the impact of seeing this powerful story about the young Helen Keller on stage will last a very long time.
Boots on the Ground Theater and the Southampton Cultural Center combined under the leadership of Director Joan Lions and Producer Bonnie Grice to give their audiences a performance that reached into their most inner core. I must admit I could not leave my seat for ten minutes after the show because of the power of what I saw. Was the play flawless? Of course not, but it was powerful and purposeful.
Ten-year old Emma Suhr, who played a young deaf and blind Helen Keller, was brilliant in her physical acting skill and being the center of the action for 90 minutes with but perhaps three lines. She will hopefully have a long successful career in acting and show business. She has the “it” factor. However, the two actors who I feel really drove the show are two East End actors who have established themselves as accomplished stage actors. They are Daniel Decker as Captain Keller and Tina Marie Realmuto, who portrays the actual “Miracle Worker” Annie Sullivan.
It was Ms. Realmuto’s lines created by the genius of William Gibson that actually made this play important. The iron will of Annie Sullivan fighting both cultural and impossible handicap situations juxtaposed to the self-doubt of any 20-year-old on her first assignment to achieve what would seem an impossible task powered this production. The driven, gifted unique individual who Annie Sullivan was is the elixir Ms. Realmuto’s talent bought to life in this show. Many times in shows and scenes children actors and what they bring to productions can be a disruptive force. However, Ms. Realmuto, overcomes that chaos and energy to stand tall strong and has purposeful wisdom in almost every one of her lines. Ms. Realmuto totally connected with the audience. They felt her character’s self-doubt, her inner battle, and her pain as she tries to start a process to change the young extremely handicapped Helen Keller’s behavior. The audience was rooting for Ms. Realmuto as she took them through Annie’s inner thoughts and outer actions.
Daniel Becker has stage presence. When he does a scene he is heard, the words are felt and they are always in character. As Captain Keller, Helen Keller’s dad, Mr. Becker again takes control of the stage to be the ultimate authoritative figure in the show, but with heart, compassion and understandable frustrations.
Bonnie Grice, an East End personality and legend, portrays Katie, Helen Keller’s mom and Captain Keller’s second wife. Bonnie Grice has charisma and a great speaking voice that enables the audience to hear every word she utters. Known for her big heart Ms. Grice brings these tools and her qualities to this show.
Josephine Wallace, who plays Viney, has her unique skills shine through even with her small amount of lines. She has great stage movement and a genuine authentic theater walk. She is an East End favorite of mine because she is a talent.
Devo Towbridge was excellent as James, Helen Keller’s half-brother from a different mother. He had important lines and stood tall in those moments.
Gerri Wilson again displayed her stage powers. While playing Aunt Ev she had her profound great moment in the show.
Lastly, but most importantly, the job Joan Lyons did dissecting a 3-hour play into a 90-powerhouse production and moving all the parts around the stage she built and designed along with Bonnie Grice was sensational. However, that is the standard of excellence and commitment Ms. Lyons brings to all her East End work. The theater is truly in her blood and she has the gift to transform her blood and sweat into great performances from her actors. I am sure someday Emma Suhr will remember how Joan Lyons brought out her best talents and became the young Helen Keller.
The production of The Miracle Worker was a success. It had a huge impact on me and the whole audience.
For more information about Boots on the Ground Theater, visit bootsonthegroundtheater.com. For more information about Southampton Cultural Center, visit scc-arts.org.