The current show at 2nd Story Theatre is Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird" adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel. The book was written in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. The well known film version in 1962 starred Gregory Peck. The show is a coming of age story of the innocence of childhood. It takes place in the middle of the Depression in Maycomb, Alabama in 1935. Scout and her brother, Jem take the audience on their summer of discovery in a neighborhood of eccentrics. From their father, Atticus Finch, they learn about compassion when a crises of social conscience rocks their sleepy town. Their father defends a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Her father is a ne'er do well who lies on the witness stand, gets embarrassed by Atticus and threatens him and his two children. The children learn about the harsh realities of life from the unfair verdict of the trial and they also learn from their father that most people are really nice once you get to know them. This story of love, courage and family is just as powerful as it was when it was written back in 1960 with its heartwarming portrayals. Director Mark Peckham casts this incredibly moving and well written show extremely well and his 19 member cast shines all night long especially the three performers playing the Finch family. This masterpiece of American literature is now a masterpiece of American theatre which is rewarded with many tears and a thunderous standing ovation. Bravo!
Harper Lee lived through the trial of the Scottsboro Boys. This story is based on this event in Monroeville, Alabama when she was 5 years old in 1931 and the character of Scout is based on her. Mark mixes the comic and dramatic elements of this powerful epic show perfectly. His blocking and direction sparkles and shines all night long. Vince Petronio is fantastic as Atticus Finch. The courtroom scene in Act 2 is splendid as he defends an innocent black man. Vince's dialogue crackles during this scene, leaving the audience breathless with its power. He also shows a strong relationship with his two children in the show and explains to them to really get to know another person you have to try to live in their skin which helps them overcome their fear of the unknown. Atticus also shows Jem to have compassion for the elderly Miss Duboise after he tramples her flowers. Jem was enraged at her mean behavior to them and Atticus punishes him by having him read Ivanhoe to her to help ease her pain before she passes away. A tender moment occurs when Vince hugs his son at this point in the show. Pretty red haired 10 year old Margaret Durning as Scout is phenomenal in this role. From her Southern accent to her excellent line delivery as this young innocent child caught up in the crazy events of this town. Margaret shows Scout finally understands what her father taught her about tolerance and befriends Boo who the children feared as some kind of monster because they had never seen him.. She is an actress with a great future ahead of her. Equally stunning is Evan Kinnane, a 13 year old,who is fantastic as the mischievous, Jem. I reviewed him in "The Miracle Worker" last year. He recently played Sonny Flood in "Dark at the Top of the Stairs" showing he can handle comic and dramatic roles at an early age. Evan also has a great future ahead of him as an actor. Both these children handle enormous amounts of dialogue with the ease of well seasoned actors and they command the stage with their acting prowess during the first act.
Another child actor who does a great job in this show is 10 year old Arek Schneyer as Dill, the young friend of the Finches. He garners many laughs as the boy who eggs the Finch children to bother Boo Radley to find out what he looks like. Dill becomes upset at the trial and later explains that he wants to run away and become a clown to make people happy. Paula Faber does topnotch work as Maudie Atkinson who narrates the show as well as playing a sympathetic friend of the Finch family. Sheriff Heck Tate is well played by Eric Behr who played Captain Keller in "The Miracle Worker". He tries to control the situation about Tom but fails. The Sheriff redeems himself by saying the villain of the show killed himself, rescuing Boo in the process. Boo Radley doesn't appear until near the end of the show and he is played with quiet warmth and great dignity by Jonathan Jacobs who I last reviewed as the comic relief in "The Miracle Worker" when he played James Keller. Boo rescues Jem from the murderous Bob Ewell who is excellently played by F William Oakes who spouts obscenities and spits on Atticus during the show. Ewell is a slimy, evil man who threatens to kill the Finches and beats his daughter but blames it on Tom. His deluded daughter is well played by Amy Thompson who I last reviewed as Helen Keller last year. She delivers her hate filled testimony about Tom with intensity. A nasty person in this show is Mrs. Dubose, an old, prejudiced woman who is rude to Scout and Jem. She is wonderfully played by Elizabeth Hallenbeck . The sympathetic maid, Calpurnia is played by Carolyn Pemberton who tries to guide the children on the right path of race relations back then and she has a funny scene when the children went to the trial scaring her to death, she admonishes them leaving the courtroom and returning to it. Another sympathetic character is Reverend Sykes played wonderfully by Brad Greer. The innocent defendant, Tom is played by Jona Cedeno who gains the audience's sympathy with his heartwarming portrayal and convincing testimony at the trial. Kudos to everyone who made this a show to be very proud of. So for a topnotch show of a classic novel, be sure to catch "To Kill a Mockingbird'' at 2nd Story Theater.