note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Beverly Creasey
Consider Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for another example of American injustice. Lee set her story in 1930s Georgia where a Black man is on trial for raping a white woman---when “the whole town” knows he didn’t. The Wheelock Family Theatre’s stellar production of Christopher Sergel’s adaptation is a must see this season (running thru Nov. 25th).
Director Susan Kosoff follows a beautiful through line ---one you don’t see in most productions of MOCKINGBIRD. It’s always been there: that lovely metaphor articulated so gorgeously by narrator/neighbor Kippy Goldfarb about it’s being a “sin” to silence the mockingbird’s song---but I really hadn’t noted before that the “sin” reference comes back at play’s end when the sheriff makes a hard decision to spare someone from harm. This MOCKINGBIRD is warm hearted. You’re keenly aware that kindness does exist in this town, even though hate and wrong win out. It will be a long time before a man can have a jury of his peers in Georgia but you’re aware that there is hope because the children are the ones who will shape the future.
Little Scout (a frisky Grace Brakeman) tells us her father “couldn’t get along for a day” without her---and she’s right. She’s the one who saves her father and the defendant when a lynch mob has other intentions. Will Lyman stands so tall and sure, as the lawyer who defends the accused, that he seems unbendable, until he interacts with his children, then we see his vulnerable side. His speech about Jeffersonian equality will send chills down your spine.
Several of the players have moments to take your breath away. Steven M. Key as the wrongly accused gives a heartbreaking account of his sad interactions with the desperate woman (Laura Morell) who cries rape. Morell makes you feel sorry for her, surprisingly enough. Paul Farwell has his noble gesture, as does Jesse J. Martin as Boo.
Monique McIntyre makes her housekeeper/mother substitute role a labor of love. John Davin makes you believe the judge tries to be fair and Kenneth Harmon as the reverend exudes godliness of a saint (and delivers some mighty fine singing). Kosoff’s whole cast gives it their all, from M. Lynda Robinson’s harmless busybody to Jane Staab’s nasty, railing next door neighbor; from Greg Nash’s vengeful villain to Fred Robbins’ no nonsense prosecutor. The children in the cast provide the charm and humor we need as respite from the cruelty---especially one adorably funny moment as counterpoint to some serious jeopardy. Janie Howland’s monumental set is quite an achievement, literally turning row houses into the neo-classical architecture of the courthouse. Don’t miss your chance to see MOCKINGBIRD as it ought to be done.