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Langley High School The Children’s Hour

By • Apr 17th, 2014 • Category: Cappies, Virginia

“Oh, what tangled webs we weave when first we practice to deceive,” lamented Walter Scott in 1808. The well-known proverb is defied in The Children’s Hour, produced by Langley High School, when one girl’s lies seem intentionally to construct an insidious future with deadly precision.

Lillian Hellman’s tragic play received intense reactions, both positive and negative, when it was first brought to life in 1934. Boundary-breaking for its time, The Children’s Hour closely follows two headmistresses accused of homosexuality during a straight and narrow-minded era. Worse yet, the allegations come from a grandmother smitten with her granddaughter, Mary, and unwilling to consider that the student’s shocking claims could be anything but the truth.

From the moment Mary Tilford (Lily Brock) slinks onto the stage, it is evident that she is unlike other children. Her purposeful looks and easy alibis contribute to the identity of the character just as much as her demonic laughs and sinister threats do. Providing stark contrast to the diabolic girl are Peggy Rogers (Sydney Copp) and Evelyn Munn (Rachel Mayman), two other students who play more allies than friends to Mary, and who are vulnerable to manipulation but grow emotionally distraught at Mary’s pernicious behavior. Rosalie Wells (Bridget Fitzgerald) demonstrates the difficult situation that many of the schoolgirls face, in which she is compelled to do whatever Mary says because of the dark secrets she knows about her. Fitzgerald fills the role strikingly well, as she appears to be an innocent and well-composed girl in the presence of adults, but becomes hysterical when tormented by Mary.

The relationship between headmistresses Karen Wright (Madeleine Chalk) and Martha Dobie (Kathleen Welch) is complex and benefits from strong chemistry between the women. Dobie’s intense reactions to the persecution hint that she is hiding something, whereas Wright’s small mannerisms and vocal inflections reveal the deep agony caused by the accusation, and lead to intricate character development. Dr. Joseph Cardin (John Bucy) seems at first to be enthralled with his fiancé, Wright, but as the story goes on, minute differences in physicality signify a much larger change in overall disposition.

Never once does the play feel immaterial or artificial, thanks largely in part to the detailed sets. One setting lends itself to both a boarding school and a mansion with the help of perfectly suited decorations carefully altered by a skillful crew of stagehands. The underlying theme of nature applied in the furniture prints and costumes is pointedly juxtaposed with the “unnatural” lifestyle of which Wright and Dobie are suspected. Almost every school girl wears perfect French braids, and matching uniforms give the children homogeneity in keen contrast to their individual characters. Mary stands out from the group with her eye-catching red shoes, enigmatic of her rebellious personality.

“A whispered lie destroyed their lives,” reads the program to Langley High School’s The Children’s Hour. The tragic play teaches the valuable lesson of the effect false allegations can have on other people. “I’ve lied myself for a variety of reasons,” states Cardin during the show. “But there wasn’t a time where, if given the chance, I wouldn’t have taken back the lie and told the truth.” Given the opportunity, would the lies told in this story be taken back?

by Gillian Wright of McLean High School

Photo Gallery

Lily Brock Lily Brock, Bridget Fitzgerald, Madeleine Chalk, Vivan Vaeth
Lily Brock
Lily Brock, Bridget Fitzgerald, Madeleine Chalk, Vivan Vaeth
Madeleine Chalk, Kathleen Welch Bridget Fitzgerald, Lily Brock
Madeleine Chalk, Kathleen Welch
Bridget Fitzgerald, Lily Brock
Rachel Mayman, Lily Brock, Sydney Copp John Bucy, Lily Brock
Rachel Mayman, Lily Brock, Sydney Copp
John Bucy, Lily Brock

Photos by Rich Stanage

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