Behind every rumor lies some small ounce of truth. Hayfield Secondary School’s production of "The Children’s Hour" showed a small town turned upside down with a little white lie that was maybe not so little after all.
"The Children’s Hour" was written by Lillian Hellman and opened on Broadway in 1934. It also had two sister movie versions, and all three received overwhelmingly positive reviews, which allowed the stage play to bypass New York’s law against stage homosexuality at that time, even if it is only implied. Karen Wright and Martha Dobie are two young women who have worked themselves to the bone trying to make their small boarding school for girls profitable. Just as they are settling into a lucrative rhythm, one spoiled brat runs away and resists returning by accusing the two women of being lovers, and word spreads until the school is deserted and Wright and Dobie’s lives are ruined.
Hayfield’s dramatic tragedy was anchored by the two principles, Paige Horwitz (Karen Wright) and Yvonne Fox (Martha Dobie). Horwitz’s trembling voice and doe eyes provided the perfect foil to her sharp-tongued partner Fox, who was so biting that her characterizations seemed on the verge of being too modern. Despite her character’s age, Taryss Mandt (Mrs. Amelia Tilford) matched their fast-paced interactions with a raw energy of her own, driving the rumors and the plot.
As a whole, the ensemble had excellent, well-molded characters; yet they would occasionally withdraw too far into these molds and lose enunciation and projection. The contrasting array of characters kept the piece fresh and exciting, yet darting eyes and character inconsistencies proved problematic. The townspeople did unite in their intolerance of the two supposed lovers, displaying a melting pot of shock, disgust, hatred, and other emotions across many different levels. Daniel Kingsley as the grocery boy was the memorable synecdoche of the town’s tumultuous feelings towards the scandal, commanding attention in his few short lines, delivered with deliberate hesitation and long stares at the women.
For what it lacked in size, the cast more than made up for in its intensity in presenting this emotionally challenging piece. The relationships between all of the characters were clearly defined and chock-full of chemistry even for the smallest roles. From costumes to hair to set pieces, every element of the show was thoroughly detailed to the period.
The stage was used well, using different layers and levels of the antique furniture to liven the setting and give it a more quaint feel to contrast with the horrific disaster that occurs.
Hayfield Secondary School’s performance of "The Children’s Hour" had the audience holding its breath numerous times, from both anticipation and disbelief. It was a deliciously chilling surprise in the midst of a very queer situation.