Breslin made her Broadway debut in the show, about a young deaf and blind Helen Keller and her instructor, played by Pill, in New York on Wednesday night (03Mar10).
But the pair’s performance, along with that of co-stars Matthew Modine and Jennifer Morrison, who play Keller’s parents, were met with a lukewarm response – with director Kate Whoriskey being criticised by writers at trade publication Backstage for her “troubled staging”.
A critic from the New York Times echoes the sentiment: “Surely this production, the first revival of The Miracle Worker to come to Broadway, could have highlighted the play’s strengths more effectively… Ms. Whoriskey’s production never finds its focus.”
The reviewer also questions casting and direction, calling 13-year-old Breslin “probably a tad mature for the role of Helen”, while adding Modine “appears to have been directed to speak loudly and in italics, as if the audience itself might be hearing-impaired”.
The Hollywood Reporter was more receptive to Breslin’s performance, dubbing it “deeply touching”.
However, the publication was less kind to Whoriskey and supporting actors Modine and Morrison: “The action takes place in numerous locations, with pieces of furniture distractingly descending from the ceiling at various times… The supporting performances are less effective, with Matthew Modine too blustery as Helen’s Civil War veteran father; Jennifer Morrison not making much of an impression as Helen’s devoted mother.”
The Miracle Worker is not the only big-name Broadway production to struggle to win over critics in the past year – Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig’s turn in A Steady Rain proved to be a big hit with fans, but it was largely panned by theatre reviewers when it opened in September (09).
Meanwhile, Jude Law’s Hamlet had writers split in their opinion and in October (09), Bill Pullman and Julia Stiles failed to wow critics with their performance in Oleanna.