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Bullies, Lies and Gossip Doom Their Victims in “The Children’s Hour” by Lillian Hellman

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We wondered if The Children’s Hour would have the same impact that it had 80 years ago — and agree it probably won’t — but the issues that it raises are still timely today. Bullying, lies, and gossip still hurt, and they are seldom reconciled. North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre has mounted a strong rendition of this classic, well worth seeing. We were disappointed at the sparse audience last Sunday afternoon, as were, surely, the NRACT management and cast.

To recap the story, a troublemaking, spoiled student in a girl’s boarding school concocts an imaginary lesbian relationship between the two owners of the school. In the 1930s that was so taboo the “L” word couldn’t even be used to describe it (and the “L” word is not “love”!) The results are told in the ensuing action, so we won’t spoil it for those not familiar with this famous period piece.

Lorelei Mellon delivers the kind of performance as Karen, one of the two owner/teachers, that we have grown to expect from her, lively, sensitive and authentic. Her size, by comparison with the height of her fiancé, Dr Joe Cardin, played by Jonathan King, is no impediment to the relationship; in fact, when he engulfs her in his arms one can feel the tenderness between them. Martha, the other owner/teacher is perceptively played by Marilyn Gorman, who bears the soul of her character with great dignity.

Hannah Woodcock brings a twisted evilness to her part as Mary, the meddlesome troublemaker, crying, wheedling, fainting, and turning on a dime to thankful sweetness and concern. Rosalie, Mary’s foil in her malicious, devious escapade is portrayed by Brianna Gilmore, and a more awkward, manipulated early teen would be hard to find. Gilmore is wonderful, with her turned-in toes and winsome innocence.

Mary Beth Hollmann graces us with Lilly Mortar, the languishing actress aunt of Martha, and gives her an emoting, prima donna-esque vanity. Amelia Tilford, Mary’s socialite, dowager grandmother is played by Sheila Outhwaite, with a hoity-toity voice and being both stern and yet loving toward her wayward granddaughter.

Janessa Baldina does fine as Agatha the maid; and Autumn Routt, Abigail Holland, Rose Davis, Elizabeth Hollmann, and Jessica Makler round out the cast as the rest of the students.

Director Sally Kinka has selected an admirable cast for this show, and keeps it flowing nicely. Her able assistant, who in addition to his other chores, makes a handy grocery boy who cleverly arranges scene changes. The scenery is charming and appropriate to the times, although we’d like to suggest that the large built-in clock, with hands that do not move, is unnecessary. The set segues neatly between school and the Tilford living room.

It would be a terrible shame for this fine show to go unwatched, so potential audiences have until March 29th to view it. We hope many will.

North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents THE CHILDREN’S HOUR at 8 p.m. March 20 and 21, 3 p.m. March 22, 8 p.m. March 27 and 28, and 3 p.m. March 29 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.

TICKETS: $16.52 ($13.41 students and seniors).

BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, info@nract.org, or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/.

SHOW: http://www.nract.org/upcoming-productions/lillian-hellman-s-the-children-s-hour and https://www.facebook.com/events/1495495347370235/.

PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.

MAP/DIRECTIONS: https://www.google.com/maps/.

OTHER LINKS:

The Children’s Hour: A Drama in Three Acts (1934 Broadway play): http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=2554 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Children%27s_Hour_%28play%29 (Wikipedia).

The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).

Study Guide: http://www.timelinetheatre.com/childrens_hour/CH_StudyGuide.pdf (TimeLine Theatre Company of Chicago, IL).

Lillian Hellman (New Orleans, LA-born playwright and writer, 1905-84): http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/260435/Lillian-Hellman (Encyclopaedia Britannica), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=6202 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0375484/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Hellman (Wikipedia).

Sally Kinka (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/sally.kinka (Facebook Page).

EDITOR’S NOTE:

Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews