By Kelsey Loesch
Cappies Critic and Student Correspondent
Imagine being locked inside of a soundproof black box. You can’t see or hear nor are you able to let anyone know what you are thinking. This was the life of Helen Keller. The two casts of Paul VI High School’s production of “The Miracle Worker,” performed Nov. 20-23, lent their talents to telling the inspiring true story of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller.
The play, based on Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life, was written by William Gibson and premiered in 1959. After an illness in infancy leaves her deaf, blind, and mute, Helen’s parents are left to care for their feral child. The parents’ tendency to let Helen get away with everything creates a chaotic household. The Kellers’ last resort is to hire a young woman, Annie Sullivan, in hopes of finally getting through to Helen. Annie plans on teaching Helen language and is prepared to do so no matter who or what interferes.
The demanding role of Helen Keller was played by Isabella Whitfield and Meghan Kelly. Playing a character who is blind, deaf, mute and as rambunctious as Helen is no easy feat, but the two actresses took to the challenge. Whitfield and Kelly played the young girl differently, using their individual strengths to bring the character to life. Kelly focused on creating Helen’s softer side as well as expressing her temperamental side. Her darting eyes, quick movements and playful nature, in addition to her guttural sobs and tantrums, culminated in a commendable performance. Whitfield emphasized Helen’s animalistic and devious nature, only occasionally allowing the audience to get a glimpse of the contrasting calmer side to Helen, but when she did, it allowed for truly haunting moments. Whitfield’s engaging facials and strong stage presence portrayed Helen brilliantly. Both Whitfield and Kelly gave quality performances and did an extraordinary job playing a character who is in no way ordinary.
Helen’s young teacher, Annie Sullivan, was played by Abby Rozmajzl and Sarah Giuseppe. The two embodied the stubborn character beautifully and worked well with their respective Helen. Both Rozmajzl and Giuseppe delivered Annie’s lines with fervor, truly displaying the passion Annie had for teaching. Both the Annie’s and the Helen’s perfectly executed fight choreography (choreographed by Katie Hoppe) added intensity and excitement to climactic scenes.
Helen’s desperate family provided a source of conflict for Annie. Playing the head of the Keller family, Captain Keller, were Nathaniel Smith and Luke Knodt. Smith and Knodt stormed around the stage assertively spewing each line as if giving orders. Smith’s powerful stance and cruel expressions made the rare occurrence of the Captain letting his guard down a beautiful thing to witness. Playing Helen’s loving mother, Kate, were Maddy Whitfield and Molly Rodriguez. The two artfully mastered playing a mother willing to give everything for her daughter. Lastly, providing comedic relief were Joey Arzeno and JJ Cummings playing the character of James Keller.
This play, especially the wild fight scenes, would leave the stage a mess. A band of servants, each one very much in character, would clean up the house. Each change was deftly executed on stage.
In conclusion, heartfelt and engaging performances brought the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan to life at Paul VI High School.