The Children's Hour

Lillian Hellman knows a lot about the big lie. In 1952 she was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted for her views. Although, when the Arvada Center planned its current theatre season they couldn't have anticipated the events of September 11th and the subsequent nationalistic intolerance over dissent, they couldn't have chosen a more appropriate play than Hellman's The Children's Hour for their current production.

photo of actors
Shayna Rose Mordue as Mary Tilford
and Jessica Austgen as Rosalie Wells
As we listen to Attorney General John Ashcroft call all those that oppose his unilateral dismantling of the Bill of Rights "unpatriotic," and as we watch Bush and Cheney hide their shameless corporate and military shenanigans behind the guise of "executive privilege" and "national security," Hellman reminds us that such stubborn righteousness as a cover-up for criminal actions is as American as apple pie.

Unwilling to look at any evidence to the contrary and without regard for the consequences, the entire adult population of a New England village takes the word of a spoiled, vindictive young girl with a persecution complex, known for her proneness to lie, and irretrievably shatters the local peace so thoroughly that even the eventual truth is unable to heal the results.

Penny Dwyer and Claudia Carson play two schoolmistresses who have worked hard to build up their life's dream, the Wright-Dobie School for Girls. Dwyer's coolly rational Karen Wright and Carson's covertly passionate Martha Dobie engender a smoldering tension that underscores the unfolding drama. Shayna Rose Mordue, as the wayward adolescent, Mary Tilford, summons the mythic possession of a "bad seed" in convincing us that she has the power to bend the wills of adults and children alike.

Duane Black as Karen's earnest, yet ultimately faithless, suitor, Dr. Joseph Cardin, Liz Jury as the deluded wealthy dowager, and Billie McBride, as the eccentric and egocentric actress, Mrs. Lily Mortar, all give strong supporting performances. Joan Staples direction makes efficient and emotionally focused use of the talent, including a large ensemble of eight young women, against the backdrop Nick and Joan Cimyotte's two remarkable sets.

The Arvada Center's production of The Children's Hour runs through February 24th. 303-431-3939.


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