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BWW Reviews: THREE DAYS TO SEE Stages the Writings of Helen Keller

Why did Helen Keller always have wax on her fingers?

Why did Helen Keller's dog kill himself?

Why does Helen Keller masturbate with one hand?

Barbara Walsh, Ito Aghayere and
Zoe Wilson (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

Director/conceiver Jack Cummings III begins Transport Group's Three Days To See, taken from the writings of Helen Keller, with his seven member ensemble bombarding the audience with a quickly paced barrage of jokes about the famous deafblind woman who became a role model for overcoming physical challenges.

There are a lot of them. And perhaps the point is that, aside from William Gibson's dramatization of a brief period of her life in The Miracle Worker, the public's awareness of the woman is drawn primarily from a collection of jokes.

So for the rest of the nearly two-hour long, intermissionless production, Keller has the floor. With one child actor (Zoe Wilson), one well-known one (Barbara Walsh) and five more adults varying in gender and ethnicity (Patrick Boll, Marc delaCruz, Theresa McCarthy, Ito Aghayere and Chinaza Uche) continually in motion on a bare stage with just a collection of folding tables, Cummings has his crew continually switching off as his subject's voice, covering her opinions on varying subjects such as religion, politics and Gone With The Wind.

There's a bit about how she toured the vaudeville circuit with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, and tense exchanges with her German publisher, Otto Shramm, concerning edits to her books.

Barbara Walsh and Patrick Boll (Photo: Carol Rosegg)

The most vividly realized scene is a wordless one, famously dramatized by Gibson and staged here by Scott Rink, where Sullivan (Walsh) is determined to have her student learn to eat properly with a fork instead of grabbing food off of plates with her hands. With Benny Goodman's hit recording of "Sing, Sing, Sing" supplying the soundtrack, the other six actors switch off at playing the violently confused and rebellious Keller, throwing food and forks all over the stage while the teacher firmly tries to get through to her.

The title is taken from the show's final vignette, where Keller writes of what she would do if given three days of sight. Aside from seeing the faces of loved ones, the piece is essentially a tour of New York, with trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The American Museum of Natural History, The Empire State Building and a couple of Broadway plays.

It's a lovely piece in its elegant simplicity, but by the time it begins the evening has already outstayed its welcome. With little variety in its abstract staging and little distinction between many of the performances Three Days To See, despite the literary and historic value of its text, is rarely theatrical enough to show a clear purpose.

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