Defamation and gossip emphasized in theatre’s latest play
“Every word has a new meaning” in this adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour,” originally performed in 1934.
The play is set in an all-girl boarding school opened and operated by Allison Kessler and Natalie Pertz as Martha Dobie and Karen Wright, respectively.
A full house wasn’t disappointed on Valentine’s Day as their date night landed them at Schuster Theatre on the campus of Gannon University.
Young Mary Tilford, played by Jade Mitchell, lays it on thick and heavy as she goes and spins a web of rumors and lies that unfolds before the rustic looking set in the second of two hour-long acts.
Several established adults in the play are faced with the challenge of decoding Tilford’s lies.
Ultimately, several fates are decided as the whirlwind of lies leads to deliberation in court.
Her lies transcend those affected in the play, complemented by the once shocking lesbian theme, which was especially controversial in 1934.
Other plays from this time period include popular musicals from composers such as the Gershwins and Rodgers and Hart.
A shift into modern day unveils once easily overlooked meanings when director Paula Barrett revamps a plot originally riddled with taboo and prejudice. As certain issues have become more acceptable in year 2013, an added emphasis is placed on the topics of defamation and gossip and their tendency to trump benevolence.
Mitchell sported a grey dress that differed slightly from the other students’ blue school uniforms.
The variance in costume created a “princess-thundercloud” persona, conveying her entitlement from a wealthy grandmother, played by Brittnie Knight, and contrasting her colorful imagination.
Her imagination far surpassed those of her classmates who were consistently puzzled by the manipulation that she employed.
Her lying and manipulation made her an outcast at school in the eyes of her peers and instructors alike.
The simple yet adequate wood-laden stage aptly set the time period from which cigarette-smoking female actresses graced the stage. Three different free-standing doorframes adorned the rustic-looking stage suggesting different sections of the Wright Dobie School and Mrs. Tilford’s living room. This served to suggest that students that were offstage were in other areas of the school or house.
Impeccable acting from the mostly female cast creates a powerful, thought-provoking message to society addressing contemporary issues as well as dishonesty.
Barrett’s adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s “The Children’s Hour” stresses the importance of honesty and acceptance that should still be demanded of contemporary youth.
“The Children’s Hour” will continue Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
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