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Friday, 21 September 2012 15:52

A Beloved Novel Takes the Stage: To Kill a Mockingbird

Written by Connie Bollinger
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Let me confess from the outset that To Kill a Mockingbird  is one of my personal favorites. I doubt anything could spoil my enjoyment watching the story unfold yet again, this time live and onstage. And enjoy it I did, with a few exceptions.

Set designer William Schmiel has come up with a lovely representation of Maycomb in 1935. The weathered boards and creaking screen doors are a comfortable setting for a sleepy southern town. Sean Savoi lights the stage with loving attention, focusing us with subtle glow or harsh glare, and the costumes are just right thanks to costume designer John Ichiostro.

Amy Loui does a remarkable turn as the grown up Scout, Miss Jean Louise Finch. Jean Louise is our narrator, a gentle and unobtrusive guide through her own childhood and the summer and fall that changed Scout's life forever.

Bruce Longworth is Atticus Finch, the gentle, good man trying to cope with raising his children to be better than their environment, and destined to be a legend in his small town for his courage and sense of fair play.

Thomasina Clarke plays Calpurnia, the strict but loving housekeeper who is raising the Finch children since the death of their mother. Cal isn't above giving the precocious Scout a swat on the bottom when she needs one...and she seems to need one a lot....but her affection for the children is evident in the subtle touching of Scout's hair or the soft smile she offers Jem.

Kyle Powell shines in his role as the falsely accused Tom Robinson, an honest man thrown into a horrific no win situation. Mr. Powell has our full attention and sympathy as his account of the incident unfolds. Given the era and the setting, we know poor Tom will get anything but justice.

Heck Tate, the Sheriff, is played with quiet confidence by Whit Reichert. Jared Sanz-Agero is a hulking menace as Bob Ewell and Colleen Backer as abused daughter Mayella gives us a character with bite beneath the pitiful surface. Joneal Joplin serves double duty as poor farmer Walter Cunningham and kindly Judge Taylor doing a fine job with both roles.

The children, Lillian Rose Orchard as the wistful and willful Scout, Braden Phillips as big brother Jem and Charlie B Southern as the irrepressible Dill are wonderful young actors, all.

However, the sound in the theater was so bad I could only make out every other word any of the actors said. The Heagney is a lovely theatre, spacious and comfortable. Why they have this sound problem is a mystery especially when one considers the impeccable credentials of their sound designer. If the actors were not facing full front it was almost impossible to understand them. There's some kind of echo effect that one would not expect in a theater of this caliber.

It's sad that an otherwise touching and enjoyable favorite would be plagued by sound that resembled an empty gym.

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