The Washington Post

‘The Children’s Hour’ illuminates Langley’s edgy material, gifted acting range, superior tech work

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

Emma Paquette, a student at McLean High School , reviews Langley High School’s The Children’s Hour’as part of the Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

Today’s society frequently likes to downplay the uncommon power of words through brash sayings and reassuring clichés. Yet, as much as some would like to deny it, words possess an undeniable influence over the human race. One little lie can move mountains, shift the tide, and shake the very foundations of life itself. Langley High School portrayed this delicate issue with wrenching realism and respectful subtlety in their gripping production of The Children’s Hour.

The Children’s Hour was written in 1934 by Lillian Hellman; its original production ran for two years on Broadway, despite laws against homosexuality on stage in New York. The play was later updated in 1952 as an implied criticism against the House Un-American Activities Committee, and it has also been adapted into two movies. The show follows Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, teachers and owners of an all-girls boarding school. One of their students is the manipulative and unstable Mary Tilford who, to avoid being sent back after running away, tells her grandmother that the two headmistresses are having a lesbian affair. The child’s accusation proceeds to wreak destruction on the women's careers, relationships, and lives.

Karen (Madeleine Chalk) and Martha (Kathleen Welch) drove the show with their intense portrayal of the irrevocably damaged friendship between the two women. Chalk was particularly notable in her use of silence to convey poignant emotion, adding to her already deep understanding of her lines of dialogue. Her defeated exhaustion after the shocking events that transpire in the last scenes of the show was utterly realistic and a jarring shift from her previously upbeat attitude from the beginning. Mary, the bitter little girl who served as the catalyst for the unfortunate spiral of events, was played with equal amounts of sickly-sweet innocence and callous selfishness by Lily Brock. Her arrogant nature and two-faced trickery were simultaneously horrifying and spellbinding. John Bucy also admirably delved into the role as the selfless Joe Cardin, displaying the character's warring thoughts with weighty nuance. Rosalie (Bridget Fitzgerald), one of the schoolgirls trapped by Mary's poisonous schemes, embodied the goody-two-shoes's stiff physicality and purposeful tone that were shockingly broken by Mary's cruelty.

The technical elements of the production beautifully cooperated to create a cohesive look for the emotionally charged performance. The static set was transformed completely by a capable, speedy, and silent stage crew. Wall decorations, curtains, and furniture all shifted to change the place from the middle-class school to the high-end home of Mrs. Tilford. The thoughtful color schemes faded as the show continued, cleverly highlighting the dulled luster of Martha and Karen's lives after they have lost everything. Overall, with few exceptions, the entirety of the stage was period appropriate for the fifties timeline.

Despite its considerable age, this important play carries a message that is still as relevant- if not more so- today as it was back when it was first penned. With the growing digital world, where every single mistake can be recorded forever, it is vital to remember the hugely destructive power of a single lie. Langley High School reminded their rapt audience of this indisputable fact in their incredible production of The Children's Hour.


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