Live theater is back in York, PA. The Belmont Theater is known for producing high quality professional shows. Although blocked by the pandemic, this community theater is now back in force.
The Miracle Worker revolves around the youth of Helen Keller and her relationship with the young teacher, Annie Sullivan. Helen, a deafblind child, wanders through life on her own terms, behaving horribly and throwing herself into violent fits. In order to avoid sending her to an asylum, her parents employ Annie to see if the child can learn.
Carly Geiter (Helen) takes on the challenges of skillfully playing a deafblind child. Never making eye contact or responding to sounds, it’s easy to forget that she is a college girl who has both sight and hearing. Geiter’s portrayal of a child’s manipulative temper tantrum, with its movements, grunts, and physical demands, suggests that she either spent a lot of time rehearsing these scenes or that she’s no stranger. to creating credible explosions.
To create a successful production of The Miracle Worker, it takes a powerful dynamic between Helen and her teacher, Annie. As this is the centerpiece of the story, these two actors must work together to create dramatic, often heart-wrenching scenes. Annie Sullivan by Marisa Hoover is a masterful take on the strong but vulnerable woman who believed in Helen and was not afraid to fight for her (and with her). Geiter and Hoover’s ability to play off each other is remarkable and a strength of this show.
Other notable performances include the many child actors. Finding and directing student actors is not an easy task. Luckily for this production, Lilliana Flickinger, Julian Ford, Ella Persing, Nora Persing, and Alyssa Shreiner all put on solid performances and brought the needed moments of sweetness to the show.
While the intimate atmosphere of the Black Box Theater suits a show like this well, the design and staging failed. Attempting to create multiple locations in the limited space was not as successful as other elements of the show. Sometimes it was difficult to follow where the actors were supposed to be, especially when they weren’t in the bedroom or dining room. Another illusion that didn’t quite work was the lighting and sound effects used to describe what was going on in Annie’s mind. It was not clear if these were thoughts or hallucinations. While they worked to move the story forward and help us understand Annie’s motivations, they weren’t clear and a little scary.
Overall, The Miracle Worker was a crowd pleaser and a wonderful evening of theater. To learn more about this show and future shows at the Belmont Theater, visit https://thebelmont.org/