Theatre Mirror Reviews - "To Kill A Mockingbird"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"To Kill A Mockingbird"

by Christopher Sergel
Based on the novel by Harper Lee
Directed by Penny Schricker

Production Design by Susan Sanders
Costume Design by Pam Jones
ProducerMaureen Carey
Stage Manager Faye Barreau

Jean Louise Finch (grown)...........Amy J. Barry
Scout.............................................Aidin Carey
Dill............................................Jonathan Silver
Jem Finch.................................Danny Beaulieu
Nathan Radley.........................Warren Cormier
Miss Maudie Atkins........................Liz Robbins
Calpurnia....................................Yasmin Dixon
Walter Cunningham......................Peter Kasper
Atticus Finch.............................Tony Bellerose
Sheriff Heck Tate.......................Robert Mackie
Mrs. Dubose.....................................Joy Weber
Jessie.......................................Delores R. Reed
Reverend Sykes..........................Lindoors Grey
Zeebo......................................Edmundo James
Lula...........................................T. J. Hudspeth
Congregation
Jacqui Bryant, Adia Barreau, Jan Bryant, Ken Bryant, Carolyn Grey, Delince Louis, Tyree Richardson, Autumn Williams-Hertz
Bob Ewell...............................Tripp Grosvenor
Mob
Kyle Andrews, Warren Cormier, Peter Kasper, Bashar Mashal, Joy Weber
Tom Robinson...............................Joseph Benn
Mr. Gilmer..................................David London
Judge Taylor..................................Alan Weiner
Ckerk.......................................Warren Cormier
Mayella Ewell...............................Rose Carlson
Link Deas...................................Bashar Mashal
Dolphus Raymond.........................Jerry Kaplan
Boo Radley....................................Steve Dawe
Courtroom Spectators:
Kyle Andrews, Madeline Beaudoin, Paige Beaudoin, Jacqui Bryant, Jan Bryant, Ken Bryant, Carolyn Grey, lindoors Grey, Lydia Jones, Pam Jones, Delince Louis, Tyree Richardson, Sheila Roach, Joy Weber, Autumn Williams-Hertz


If you think, as I did, that "To Kill A Mockingbird" is a quaint, dated, unplayable old liberal war-horse, you owe yourself a trip to The Works Theatre in Davis Square, where the new Insight Theatre Company is making it freshly, intensely alive. Even if your memories are of the excellent award-winning film, this 34-member cast --- each one giving a fully-rounded, individual performance --- will startle you with details of their vividly interacting performances you'll swear you've never heard before.

For one thing, here Atticus Finch is not a familiar celluloid god, but a round-shouldered country-lawyer with uppity kids to bring up and the weight of his own uncompromising honesty bending his back. When Tony Bellerose takes off his linen jacket and flexes that back before a final, futile summation defending a Nigger in a rape case, everyone in the theater knows he's right, but only the children are innocent enough to believe he can win --- although, here, their faith in the truth is, fleetingly, catching.

There is no tokenism in this production. The eight Black citizens who are allowed to sit silently in a balcony to witness the trial of one of their own are as intently, as individualistically attentive to every detail as the seven Whites in seats of privilege down front --- and every one of them reacts, in their own ways, to what they hear. Earlier on, in services at the First Purchase African Methodist-Episcopalian Church (a scene often cut from live productions) these "scene-swellers" seize a chance to demonstrate their heritage and their pride, this time vocally. Suddenly the Black population of 1935's Maycomb County, Alabama, has an equal claim on the attention of the audience.

Jean Louise Finch is here played by two people: Amy J. Barry who narrates this memory-play, and Aidin Carey who is her pre-teen self. Repeatedly throughout the play old and young avatars play lines in unison, and the elder not only tells the audience a lot left out of other productions, she remains a continual observer at the center or the edges of the action, seeing her own past along with the viewers.

Cary's pigtailed "Scout" is not so much fearless here as simply too innocent to understand danger. She is one thing with her older brother (Danny Beaulieu) and their complicated friend Dill (the young pro Jonathan Silver), quite another asking penetrating questions of Atticus, her father. And she often blurts a tension-breaking comment with the timing of a comic yet the ingenuous directness of a kid.

I could play pin-the-superlatives-on-the-actors here all night: Robert Mackie uses his pure white hair to account for Sheriff Tate's ineffectuality; Yasmin Dixon as Calpurnia the motherly housekeeper is an obvious paid member of the family; Tripp Grosvenor's Bob Ewell is a cocky villain easy to hate; Lindoors Grey leads the congregation expertly both in sermon and in singing --- but if I do, anyone neglected will think their performance less laudable or less notable and in no case is that true. I have rarely seen a company so large give such integrated ensemble playing.

And I haven't said a sentence about the production design of Susan Sanders, which kept the excellently choreographed set-changes to a minimum by spotting small scenes out in the house at the corners of the thrust-stage, nor of Pam Jones' precise costumes, or Jerry Robbins' period-pegging radio-show overture, nor stage manager's Faye Barreau's choreography of those set-changes, nor of the eye for every significant little detail which is Director Penny Schricker's. But I must note one credit, merely as an example of that very eye for detail:
The narrator introduces the climactic Hallowe'en confrontation noting she had gone to a party that night costumed as a ham --- a funny line in itself, left to the imagination in most productions. For this production, Sheila Leavitt encased young Scout in a larger-than-life Grade-A impenetrable number which means she can see nothing and must be guided home by her elder brother. It not only gets its laugh, it adds to the terror of the sequence.

And you thought seeing the movie meant you knew what "To Kill A Mockingbird" was all about, didn't you? Trek over to Davis Square for a new "Insight"!

Love,
===Anon.


"To Kill A Mockingbird" (till 7 February)
INSIGHT THEATRE COMPANY
The Works Theater, 255 Elm Street, Davis Square, SOMERVILLE
1(617)625-6478

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