Total darkness, total silence. Could you live in such a world? With light and sound taken away, who would you be? With its newest production, Lamb’s Players gives us a raw, poignant, and extremely physical look at life with a blind, deaf child.
There are no rose-colored glasses Helen Keller’s world, which became silent and dark after a childhood illness. Her existence is bleak, desperate, and strangely limited by those who love her. Enter Anne Sullivan, a complicated young teacher who is fighting her own demons. As Helen’s family comes to see, she has much in common with their stubborn, animal-like Helen, who fights tooth and nail for her small rights like a peppermint, a doll, or a taste off of everyone’s plate at the table.
With signature Lamb’s style, the actors and actresses seamlessly bring their characters to life. Lucia Vecchio deserves great applause in her role as Helen. She literally throws herself into the extremely physical role: thrumming her fists and heels on the stage in a tantrum, throwing chairs and dishes, spitting food. From the first scene, she brings Helen’s dark, soundless world to life through her gestures, expressions, and words — or lack thereof.
Lucia meets her match in Kelsey Venter (familiar to many as Fantine in Lamb’s production of Les Miserables). Venter plays Anne Sullivan with grit and determination, and she meets Lucia Vecchio’s physicality with unhindered energy of her own. Robert Smyth deserves great credit here in his directing, as does Jordan Miller in his coordination of the fight scenes. Both actresses seemed to utilize every fiber of their beings to convey their story, and — at least when I was there on Saturday night — their performances brought a stunned and teary-eyed audience to its feet at the conclusion of the play.
Lamb’s Players Theatre is no stranger to the visceral true story of The Miracle Worker. The company first staged the production in 1995, when actress Cynthia Gerber played Helen. This year, Cynthia is playing Helen’s mother, Kate Keller.
“One of my favorite roles was playing Helen Keller,” says Cynthia. “But now I am looking at [The Miracle Worker] from a completely different point of view, and with a mother’s heart, which I didn’t have when I did it the first time,” says Cynthia, who has two sons. “My character, Helen’s mother, loves Helen despite the fact that she can’t communicate with her and that Helen is a monster. At one point she says, ‘Like the lost lamb in the parable, I love her all the more.'”
To experience this phenomenal rendition of a timeless story, visit the Lamb’s Players website or call (619) 437-6000 for tickets, including generous military and youth discounts.