The Washington Post

Realistic characters skillfully convey miracle on Woodbridge stage

Pictured: Clara Hoch and Mia Amado. Photo by Terri Caretti.

All reviews are written by Cappies student critics and edited by Cappies adult mentors prior to publishing.

Max Johnson , a student at McLean High School reviews “The Miracle Worker” performed by Woodbridge Senior High School as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program .


Isolated from both sight and sound, Helen Keller’s intellect is trapped in the deepest recesses of her mind, locked only by her deprivation of any language outside of violence and tantrums.  But when the steady hand of a young, determined teacher for the blind stretches towards Helen, an opportunity for a miracle is born.  With a beloved play detailing the inspirational educational feat of Anne Sullivan, the “The Miracle Worker” at Woodbridge Senior High School tastefully produced the moving story of the Helen Keller’s journey into communication through nothing less than a miracle.

Based on his teleplay of the same name, William Gibson originally adapted "The Miracle Worker" for the stage in 1957. This historically accurate depiction draws from Helen Keller's autobiography "The Story of my Life," in addition to several letters written by Anne Sullivan during the course of her months spent tutoring Helen. The plot follows Anne as she desperately tries to break through to Helen using an adapted version of sign language while exploring her past through flashbacks and monologues.

Set in post civil war South, Woodbridge did a thorough job of recreating late 1800s Tuscumbia, Alabama.  The ornate and period costuming properly fit the fashions of the Southern aristocracy.  The pieces themselves were appropriately handled by the actors, holding and wearing the costumes and props in a way that accentuated the regality fitting an upper class Southern family. The accents occasionally impugned on diction, however, when properly handled, the dialects subtly and accurately displayed the setting.  The sets were built out of clean white frame work in a geometric fashion acting as the walls of the two-leveled house, with empty picture frames hanging off the walls.

Playing the passionate governess Anne Sullivan, Clara Hoch portrayed a mature and reserved educator, with an unwavering physicality and clear mental state hardened by years of survival and abuse.  Mia Amado gave a thoroughly well rounded performance in the extremely difficult role of Helen Keller.  Amado’s constant reaching, patting, and touching realistically demonstrated her character’s exploration of a world understood only through her tactile senses.  The development from a fierce, animal-like girl into a civilized, attentive child was believable and discerning throughout, never slipping into caricature of the handicapped.  The two, however, shone brightest in their scenes together, playing off each other’s actions and reactions quickly and entertainingly.  Their interactions caused some of the most compelling moments in the play even when not exchanging dialogue, such as an extended bout of wills coupled with a wrestling match in order to teach Helen to eat with a spoon.

 The supporting cast did an adequate job in building Helen’s family, demonstrating the love for a disabled girl that would have been considered very uncommon for the time period.  Kaitlyn Rhyne, playing Helen’s mother Kate Keller, portrayed her character's age appropriately as she maintained a genuine maternal aura.   As Helen’s father, Harrison Simpson possessed a commanding, stiff presence, stressing the already strained father-son relationship with Justin McIntyre, who played Helen’s half-brother James.  The ensemble of blind children served their function well, displaying their disabilities without attracting attention to any one individual or distracting from the main action.

 With powerful realism in acting and setting, Woodbridge Senior High School brought the miracle of Helen Keller’s education to the stage, opening eyes and ears of everyone who watched.


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