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Monday, 29 November 1999 19:00

To Kill a Mockingbird

Written by Chris Gibson
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The O'Fallon Repertory Theatre

Through 11/04/2007
Reviewed by Chris Gibson
The O'Fallon Repertory Theatre is presenting Christopher Sergel's adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. But by dramatically condensing the action and events that take place over a three year period in the book, the playwright lessens the scope of the story and dilutes the tension. An intermission that occurs right as the pivotal trial begins only adds to the problems with this production.

 

Set in Maycomb County, Alabama in 1935, the plot has widowed attorney Atticus Finch taking on the duty of defending a black man unjustly accused of assaulting a young white girl. Though the outcome is never really in doubt due to the prejudicial attitudes of the time, the case is important to Finch. As a parent he uses the trial to teach his children the true meaning of courage and the importance of standing by one's beliefs.

Mary Fedak plays the grown up incarnation of Atticus's daughter, Jean Louise, who narrates the play. Fedak does a decent job in the role, but the device proves more distracting than insightful. Sierra Teson plays Scout, the younger version of Jean. Teson is a bit tentative at times, but does fine work overall. Less successful is Michael Fedak in the crucial role of Atticus. Fedak is just too monotonous in his approach. His tepid characterization lacks any emotional depth. Though he seems sincere, there's no underlying passion in his portrayal.

Terrance Peterson is exceptional in the small part of Tom Robinson, the black man accused of rape. Peterson fully invests himself in the part and gives a clarity to his testimony that's missing from many of the other actor's performances. Samantha Page is also good as his accuser, Mayella Ewell. Page is able to accurately convey the confusion and shame her poor and barely educated character feels. D.A. Capaldi is convincingly sinister as Mayella's father, Bob, the true villain of this piece.

Shane Rudolph is underutilized as Boo Radley. Rudolph does what he can with the part, but the script doesn't fully develop the mysterious Radley in the same manner the novel does. Here he's only around to conveniently protect Finch's children from the murderous advances of the elder Ewell, and nothing else. Unfortunately that key dramatic moment is clumsily staged and awkwardly executed.

Solid support is provided by Bill Fix, Joan Ochoa, Daniel Hecht, April Grob, Roxanne Seegers and Steve Teson.

Katherine Cuba's direction is hampered by some pedestrian performances and by a script that never manages to build any suspense. The crux of Harper Lee's powerful story is still there, but the impact is never felt.

To Kill a Mockinbird
continues through November 4th (2007) at the Renaud Spirit Center in O'Fallon, Mo. Call 636-474-8150 for ticket information.

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