If you had hopes of catching the London stage revival of The Children’s Hour starring Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss, your chances just got a lot better. The play’s run has been extended through the end of April. Better yet for us Yanks, the production is planning to make the leap across the pond with its original actresses to Broadway in the fall.
The Lillian Hellman play was first produced on Broadway in 1934. It centers on headmistresses and friends Karen Wright (Knightley) and Martha Dobie (Moss) who run all-girls boarding school and become the subject of malicious rumors about their relationship from a vengeful student. The false gossip about their lesbian affair threatens their careers and leads to some real latent revelations. Spoiler Alert: Things don’t end well, so if you go bring Kleenex.
News of the revival first broke in October. The play was originally scheduled to close April 2, but now will go through April 30. The longer run comes courtesy strong early ticket sales and the actresses’ ability to clear their schedule of other work. Joining them on stage will be veteran actresses Ellen Burstyn and Carol Kane.
The New York Times reports that the play could work its way to Broadway as early as the fall. Both actresses’ production schedule – Knightley in film and Moss in Mad Men – prevents an earlier crossover. The production’s director Ian Rickson has an impressive Broadway track record working with equally impressive actresses. His other work includes the Seagull with Kristin Scott Thomas and a Hedda Gabler with Mary Louise Parker.
The Broadway play was adapted for the big screen in 1961 with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in Knightey and Moss’s roles, respectively. The film was one of the first mainstream releases to tackle, albeit covertly, lesbian themes. In historical perspective, the play and movie are often used as examples of the “tragic lesbian” stereotype that ran through popular culture at the time and continues too often today.
I’m very interested to see how Knightley and Moss both approach and update the material. The play’s themes of hidden longing and self loathing are sadly still relevant. Given the recent spate of gay bullying suicides, the theme of insidious gossip chimes just as tragically with the zeitgeist.
So, excited about the revival? Really excited for the cast? Ready to cry your eyes out at tragic lesbians once more? Discuss.