OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Final week for tragic teacher tale 'The Children's Hour'

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-01-31T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Final week for tragic teacher tale 'The Children's Hour'By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

I have never seen the 1961 film directed by William Wyler called "The Children's Hour," starring Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner, Miriam Hopkins and Veronica Cartwright.

The film is based in the 1934 play by Lillian Hellman about the harm that gossip can cause, with the story set in an exclusive all-girls boarding school run by two young, unmarried female teachers who find themselves accused of having an "unnatural" relationship, after one of their students starts a hurtful rumor.

In the film version, it is Hepburn and MacLaine as the teachers, with Garner playing the fiance of Hepburn's character. Hopkins plays the actress-turned-teacher, dotty aunt of McClaine's character, and the catalyst who unknowingly helps instigate the rumor's origin.

Pride Films and Plays continues its 2013-14 season with a riveting and compelling new production of Hellman's classic story of love and lies. Directed with finesse and fine attention to detail by Derek Bertelsen, it ends an all-too-short run Feb. 9 at Collaboraction's Pentagon Theater, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.

I see many, many stage productions week after week. But this imagining of "The Children's Hour" is so well done, I have already purchased my tickets to see it this weekend for a second time.

Based on a true story, the play was originally banned in Chicago and not seen in the Windy City until the 1950s.

It is Director Bertelsen's superb casting and the profound talent of his actresses in the leads that make this production so superior.

Britni Tozzi plays tear-stained Karen Wright, the young teacher with impending nuptials to Dr. Joseph Cardin, the local physician played by Nelson RodriguezWhitney Morse shows just the needed edge and determination as Martha Dobie, a single teacher with the heavy soul and equally heavy burden of running a school. Michelle McKenzie-Voigt is a beautiful blend of bubbly persona peppered with drama and entertaining faux lament as Mrs. Lily Mortar, Martha's kooky aunt. Joan McGrath plays the stone-faced, cold and defiant Mrs. Amelia Tilford, a wealthy socialite who is the trouble-making aunt of Dr. Joe Cardin. Ella Mouria Seet plays Agatha, Mrs. Tilford's maid.

The cast of fantastic young talent wonderfully choreographed as the whispering school children is perfect in every way, including Nathalie Mendez as Rosalie, Zoquera Milburn as Peggy, Brittany Bookbinder as Catherine, Tasheena Migayi as Evelyn, Katrina Kiss as Helen, Ashley Darger as Lois and Nora Elise Ulrey, who holds back nothing in a riveting performance as Mary Tilford, the little girl who uses lies and gossip to get her revenge for being disciplined.

Tickets are $25 and $30 available through Brown Paper Tickets at (800) 838- 3006 or brownpapertickets.com with 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. FYI: pridefilmsandplays.com

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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