By Tina Arth
To further embed its reputation for playing way outside the borders of the sandbox, Twilight Theater is presenting playwright William Gibson’s Tony award-winning The Miracle Worker in the wintry timeslot traditionally reserved for holly and mistletoe, Scrooge and Cratchit, or at least Santa and an octet of tiny reindeer. For this I offer up heartfelt thanks – there are a lot of great plays out there, and it just doesn’t make sense to dedicate 1/8 of the year to one particular (if large) genre. Several years ago, Director Doreen Lundberg led a fine Washington County cast through a multi-award winning production of The Miracle Worker, and I suspect that she has been hankering to take another shot at the play ever since. Now that I’ve seen her 2019 take on the show, I’m glad she did – the Twilight production is a lovely way to conclude Twilight’s 2019 “In the Buff” season (and no, there are no nude scenes!).
The show can be tough to cast well – in particular, the role of Helen is critical, demanding a young actor able to tell her whole story without the use of words. Olivia Holmstedt handles the part superbly – she is on stage almost constantly for three acts, and carries off the physical demands flawlessly. Her eyes never focus and she responds to stimuli with her entire body. More important, she somehow radiates the inner turmoil, sly cleverness, fierce temper, confusion, and emotional neediness of her character. While the roles are less demanding, the play also requires several other young girls to portray household help and blind girls in Boston. Director Lundberg managed to find 5 fine actors ranging from 7 years old to early teens to fill these smaller, but still significant roles.
Without much in the way of a set, Robin Pair’s lighting design works overtime to create mood and to shift our attention from one part of the stage to another as the action demands. Finally, Karen Roder’s costume design is generally precise – accurate for the period, appropriate for each character’s social status. I am a bit curious about Olivia’s footwear choice (roughly akin to combat boots) but can imagine a rationale for the decision.