The Miracle Worker

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Springville’s Villa Playhouse Theatre has put together an impressive production of Williams Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker,” with director Kathleen Nutt’s innovations doing much to keep the play fresh and alive.

Nutt has added angels to the story — pretty young girls who follow the protagonists around, helping them at times and comforting the family at other times.

There is also a great deal of peaceful music between scenes, adding to the overall tranquil tone of the play.

None of these additions are intrusive; rather, they add a deep feeling of hopefulness and earnestness.

Not that the play needs much embellishment. It’s based on the true story of Helen Keller (Breanne DeFreese), rendered blind and deaf by a childhood illness, and Annie Sullivan (Rebecca Connerley), the woman who taught her to communicate.

It’s a drama that is fascinating to watch, particularly in the scenes where Annie tries to make Helen understand that the symbols she’s been drawing on her hand actually mean something, that everything has a name. One gets a profound sense of the frustration the entire family must feel.

Robinne Booth is sympathetic as Mrs. Keller, a woman who loves her daughter but doesn’t know how to reach her. David Haenlein, as her proud, dictatorial husband, functions on one level, yelling everything with a Southern accent and punctuating most lines with a sharp jab of his finger. His scenes become tiresome as he rants and rails like some kind of demented Foghorn Leghorn character.

Connerley and DeFreese as Annie and Helen carry the show, though. Connerley’s strength and determination make Annie an incredible female role model, and the young DeFreese — even though she has no spoken lines — conveys a bright young girl who is trapped in a world she doesn’t understand.

The ending is dramatic and wonderfully satisfying. Even though history tells us that Annie would eventually succeed in getting through to Helen, it is no less sweet when we see it happen.

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