Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Inherit the Wind"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi


by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
directed by Laura Schrader

Phil Cooper / Money Man … Joseph Arbeely
Townsperson … Barbara Belles
Drummond … Michael Bradley
Television Reporter … Kerry Bryars
Rachel … Rachel Carney
Matthew Harrison Brady … Bill Doscher
Timmy … Ben Duvall
Davenport … Brian Giacometti
Mrs. McLain … Annie Giddings
Melinda … Rebecca Gilbert
Mayor … Ron Green
Mrs. Bollinger … Maia Hansen
Judge … Don Hovey
Maggie Loomis … Adie Jalfin
Elijah … Marek Janota Bzowski
Photographer … Avery Johson
Mrs. Krebbs … Jeanette Lake-Jackson
Sillers … James Laing
Mrs. Brady … Marie LeClair
Mrs. Platt … Julianne LaMay
Hornbeck … Steven Malatesta
Townsperson … Mary Moffett
Mrs. Blair … Wendy Nystrom
Goodfellow … Don Pinnelle
Meeker … Larry Segel
Dunlap … Jim Skypeck
Bertram Cates … Zach Snow
Reverend Brown … Jim Taber
Bannister … Brian James Ward
Howard … Noah Wartenberg
Reuters Reporter & Recorder … Bogusia Wojciechowska

Move over OUR TOWN and make room for INHERIT THE WIND --- Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s 1950s courtroom drama based on the Scopes Monkey Trial of the 1920s is another chestnut now relevant for today’s times. OUR TOWN comforts and reinforces with its small-town sweetness and timeless values; INHERIT THE WIND provokes with its clash between fundamentalism and freedom of speech and thought, especially what can and cannot be taught in schools (Messrs. Lawrence and Lee used the Scopes trial for their own attack on McCarthyism). The Footlight Club production is the Boston area’s second WIND in the past few months; no doubt, there will be more a-blowing --- if you have never seen the play or its film versions, the Club’s production is a decent introduction; “introduction” in the sense that it is condensed from three acts to two and plays as a collection of Big Scenes rather than a well-rounded evening --- it would be perfect for high school students reading the play for English class. My only nitpick is that the production is updated to 2004; there is talk of emails and laptops, the radio announcer becomes a smiling TV anchorwoman, etc. I, for one, don’t need to see Hamlet with a cell phone in order for me to identify with him; here, I felt I was being treated as one of the narrow-minded townspeople --- i.e., I wouldn't have gotten the play's timeliness had it been done as is.

That said, the production is good bread-and-butter and has the best Footlight ensemble I’ve seen thus far; things take awhile to warm up but as long as the supporting players are allowed to ad-lib they make up a convincing community and it is a pleasure to look over the numerous faces for their reactions throughout the trial. Director Laura Schrader fails to punch up the play’s tragedy --- the downfall of Matthew Harrison Brady, the overzealous prosecuting attorney --- and thus Bill Doscher does little more than twinkle, beam and roar adorably (it’s a great audition for Sir Toby Belch); Michael Bradley’s Drummond, the defending attorney, is a mellow flame rather than a shower of sparks; whenever he and Mr. Doscher clash, there is the agreeable sound of corn popping. Zach Snow and Ron Green’s iconographies make them naturals as the accused schoolteacher and the backsliding Mayor, and Don Hovey is amusingly prim and snooty as the Judge; I have seen Mr. Hovey several times, before --- he may play the same notes over and over but he is such a wonderful throwback to the character comedians of 1930s films that he is a welcome accent to any production.

"Inherit the Wind" (4 - 19 June)
Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN, MA
1 (617) 524-6506

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide