By Catherine Dribb
Having attended the performance with a friend who, while a fan of theater, nevertheless believes that scripts written after 1950 that don’t take into consideration the average attention span of adults reduce their art to inconsiderate babbling, I became concerned when the greeter at the box office said, “the show runs over two hours but has two intermissions.” My pragmatic thespian friend, while relenting since The Children’s Hour was written in 1934 (before writers could be held accountable for taking into account the attention span of post-television-watching-post-Atari-playing adults), nevertheless gave me a look when I passed along the greeter’s information and pointed him toward the one-stall bathroom.
However, The Children’s Hour, produced by Different Stages, was not only well staged, but also well timed and neither of us was troubled by the length. Director Karen Jambon used Lillian Hellman’s solid script to keep the show well paced and entertaining, despite the troubling nature of its themes.
Karen Wright, played by Nikki Zook, is one of the two teachers of an all girls school, falsely accused of being a lesbian in relationship with fellow founder Martha Dobie (Bridget Farias). Zook brings to our senses the agony of harassment, unfounded and unrepentant. From her initial interaction with student and accuser Mary Tilford, darkly and acutely played by Laura Ray, to releasing her fiancé, a sincere but human Dr. Cardin (Errich Petersen), to finally resigning herself to a lonely, branded life after her best friend and alleged lover Martha takes her own life, Zook’s character is strong and compelling. These dramatic performances were accented by the school children’s caricaturistic performances (notably those of Helen Hulka and Bethany Harbaugh), which provided necessary comic relief against the evil of a conniving child’s web of lies.
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