Compass Rose Studio Theater’s The Miracle Worker
Imagine for a moment that you can neither see nor hear, that you careen through life as an animal trapped in a silent, black maze.Omnipotent beings collude against your wild frustration until only your savagery can wear them down enough to earn you meager bribes and scraps of their exasperated affection. Such is the life of six-year-old Helen Keller.
In Compass Rose Studio Theater’s The Miracle Worker, Annalie Ellis’ portrayal of pain and confusion is heartbreaking. I was carried away by this diminutive tween who broke her blank stare only once in two hours.
Helen and her teacher Annie Sullivan, Colleen Marie Arnold in this production, connect on a cerebral level with little window dressing.
To Helen’s parents (Chris Briante and Rebecca Dreyfuss) the possibility of her having a normal life is impossible. Long-suffering Kate (Dreyfuss), the second wife, has a way with her authoritarian husband who has already alienated his adult son James (Jonathan Ezra Rubin). This family dynamic surpasses mere crisis. It stews in controversy due to Rubin’s veiled insolence. The strength of this household is clearly Viney (Murjani Sowell), the even-tempered cook, maid and sitter. Rounding out the cast are Helen’s young playmates Prissy (Rachel Dylan Opert) and Martha (Kennedy Smith), Tim Wolf as the doctor and Annie’s teacher Anagnos, and Will Fritz as the voice of Annie’s dead brother Jimmy.
For a story heavy with tragic possibility, this one offers a surprising amount of humor. Opening night’s full house had rousing applause for the troupe, despite some muffed lines. The soundtrack is lifted from Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O’Connor’s classically infused Appalachian Waltz album, which is terrific, but some background birds and crickets could have spiced up the monotony of Annie’s soliloquies. The set and furnishings are minimal, but with an impressive pump whose inexhaustible supply of water fascinated all present.
Early in the play, Keller tells Annie that no one expects her to perform miracles, even for $25 a month. Yet she does. For just $5 more, you can see the miracle four student actors achieve with the seasoned guidance of pros. That’s what Compass Rose is all about: creating theater for the next generation. This show doesn’t disappoint.
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. Director: Lucinda Merry-Browne. Set and props: JoAnn Gidos and Sophie George. Costumes: Meghan O’Beirne. Lights: Paul Webster. Sound: Sarah Wade.
Thru March 11 at 8pm ThFSa; 3pm Su at 1011 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis. $30 w/discounts; rsvp: 410-980-6662; www.compassrosetheater.org.