To Kill a Mocking Bird
To Kill a Mocking Bird
By Harper Lee
Adapted by Christopher Sergel
Directed by Thomas Oullette
Starring Warren Kelly, Kennedy Joy Foristall, and Walker Russell
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL
You’ve been to high school so you’ve at least read the Cliff’s Notes: in the rural south trapped in the depression of the 1930’s, race relations aren’t that different than they were a 100 years before. A black man accused is black man convicted, and the death penalty makes things quick and easy. Young “Scout” Fitch (Foristall) reached that age where adults stop making sense: she gets in fights, shoots an air rifle and admires her father Atticus (Kelley). He has the undesirable job of defending Tom Robinson (Jamil A.C. Mangan) against a charge of rape brought by the filthiest man in Maycomb, Bob Ewell (Eric Hoffman). While the courts grind, Scout and her brother Jem (Russell) and their friend Dill (Josh Lefkowitz) plot to get reclusive Boo Radley out of his house. Ultimately they do, but not in the way they wanted. And Atticus? He prevails in the court of intellect but not the one that returns verdicts. Life returns to dusty normal.
This is a classic and the Shakes crew gives it as big a production as Les Mis or Nicholas Nickleby, admittedly with a smaller cast. Mr. Kelley is slow and methodical and a southern gentleman, he accepts other people for what they are to a supernatural degree and he looks like he’s doing everything he can to not sweat in the Alabama heat. Forestall and Russell form a good team, she’s rather strident and he’s a good-old-boy-in-training, but they work as a team and value each other’s thoughts. Backing the adults are such fine performances as John Ahlin as Sherriff Heck Tate; he’s as interested in justice as he is in keeping peace. Opposite him is the filthy Bob Ewell who may have bathed last year, but it was an honest mistake. His daughter Mayelle (Liz Mignacca) gave one of the best performances of the evening as the abused and illiterate daughter who got caught with an implacable and resigned Robinson. Other noteworthy performances came from Ahmed Brooks Reverend Sykes as well as the put upon Calpurnia (Sheryl Carbonell).
The stage was amazing; a huge hickory tree has grown to the lights, and will be here for the next month or so thanks to Scenic designer Bert Scott. If anything was lacking it was light: this show was dimly lit, and the final resolution set on s a stage so dark one depended on the denouement dialog to reveal what we had just tried but failed to see. There were more than a few voiceovers, sometimes handling bits of exposition and sometimes just reflecting actor’s internal mind sets. A little more light and a little less VO would work for me, but this is a worthy show that says more about justice and compromise than any civics class.
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