Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, which premiered in 1934, has had a long history both onstage and onscreen, yet it still remains every bit as intriguing and relevant as ever. Perhaps that’s because the play is, at its heart, a story about human nature. In the Crucible-like tale, two women and best friends who run a school together, Karen (Lorelie Mellon) and Martha (Marilyn Gorman) have their lives turned upside down when their most difficult student, Mary (Hannah Woodcock) spreads a vicious rumor about them.
Tightly and meticulously directed by Sally Kinka, NRACT’s presentation of the play is fascinating and character-driven. Mellon, who is best known in the Triangle area for her comedic roles, has a chance to really shine here. She is soft-but-strong in her no-nonsense portrayal of Karen and really leads the entire show. She is also surrounded by a strong supporting cast, including Jonathan King, who gives a seething emotional performance as Dr. Cardin, Mary’s fiance, and a group of talented young girls who portray the students at the school. Elizabeth Hollmann and Brianna Gilmore are particularly effective in their roles as Evelyn and Rosalie, two girls who’ve found themselves under the thumb of the powerful, manipulative Mary. Clad in a pale wig that gives her an eerie quality, Woodcock does a great job of showing Mary’s vindictive-spoiled-brat nature.
In addition to the strong performances, all the other pieces come together for a truly fabulous show. Dramatic lighting touches and a simple set that gives an up-close-and-personal view of the cast at all times help this performance to shine. Also very nice here is the fact that Kinka has chosen to continue the character-development even between scenes. Instead of having set-movers come out and get the stage into place before each act, the characters in the play do it- without speaking but while still revealing much through their movements and glances. This unique choice allows every moment of the show to be intriguing and engrossing.
While most people will be aware of the show’s tragic ending, it still comes as an unwelcome and emotional shock., especially since NRACT’s production focuses so much time on getting the audience to care about these characters. And, despite what becomes of all of them, the audience does care…deeply, thanks both to Hellman’s enduring script and the quality of this fine production.
North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents THE CHILDREN’S HOUR at 8 p.m. March 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, email@example.com, 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.
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).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.