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Buffalo Public Theatre takes on Lillian Hellman’s chilling ‘Children’s Hour’

Say the name Lillian Hellman, and many theatergoers’ minds jump immediately to her searing and much-revived play “The Little Foxes,” arguably the playwright’s most powerful work and certainly her most lasting contribution to the American theater. But Hellman’s first significant effort, the chilling 1934 play “The Children’s Hour” is no minor work by comparison.

It is being revived in a Buffalo Public Theatre production directed by Loraine O’Donnell in the New Phoenix Theatre (95 Johnson Park). The show opens Friday and runs through Nov. 8 and features Jenn Stafford, Andrea Natale-Profeta, Pamela Rose Mangus, Bobby Cooke, Tammi Hayes, Arin Dandes, Jamie Lablo and Margo Davis.

Brooks Atkinson, writing in the New York Times about a revival of the play in 1952, described its central character and plot this way: “A malicious little girl, who is probably psychotic, gets herself released from boarding school by falsely telling her mother that the two headmistresses are lovers.”

It’s tough not to be sold on that description alone. The show, which was last produced locally by Buffalo United Artists in 1993, marks the BPT’s move to the New Phoenix Theatre after a brief collaboration with the Ujima Theatre ended earlier this year. Tickets are $20 to $30, with more info at 853-1334 or facebook.com/buffalopublictheatre.

– Colin Dabkowski

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