Monday, February 22, 2016

theatre review - THE CHILDREN'S HOUR - Desert Foothills Theater - February 19, 2016

Bella Tindall, Carolyn McBurney, Matthew Harris,
Jennifer E. Rio, and Kellie Dunlap
Photo by Tiffany Bolock / Desert Foothills Theater
Click here for more information on this production that runs through February 28th.

 "Based on an actual court case from the 1800s, Lillian Hellman's 1934 play The Children's Hour focuses on how a lie told by a child drastically impacts and virtually destroys the lives of two women. Desert Foothills Theater presents this rarely seen play in a fine production that features a stunning performance by teenager Bella Tindall as the girl who tells the lie....Hellman's dialogue is succinct and extremely well written, though the play itself is a little wordy, somewhat melodramatic, has some slow going parts, and the court case scene, in which the two women sue for libel, all happens offstage. ...As Martha and Karen, Kellie Dunlap and Jennifer Rio do well with their roles, though there is a slight disconnect in their acting styles, with Kellie's expressive nature sometimes at odds with Rio's more stoic and less emotional delivery. This occasionally causes a few of their scenes together to seem not quite believable. However, in the third act where Karen has a confrontational moment with her fiancé Joe (played very well by a sure footed Matthew Harris), followed by a conversation between Karen and Martha, with Martha searching for some understanding of the truth as to the woman she is and the shame that comes with it, both Dunlap and Rio deliver credible moments. As Mary, Bella Tindall is exceptional. She has a perfect, realistic take on this bratty girl who causes trouble, makes things up, and is a bad influence on the other girls. Her calculating and expressive eyes and body language portray the spoiled and cocky girl superbly. Carolyn McBurney is equally convincing as Mary's well-meaning grandmother who gets involved in spreading the lies about the women, since she believes her granddaughter.....Director Janis Webb doesn't let the talkier moments of the play bog down the action and she gets lovely performances from the group of teenagers who play the schoolgirls. She also manages to keep the whole play from going too far into melodrama, though a tighter grip on the acting styles might have allowed for a more emotional ending.....While I have a few quibbles with the play and this production, Hellman's words and the Desert Foothills cast come together to show the lasting emotional cost of gossip, rumor and bullying and how the statements of just one young girl can be extremely destructive."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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