Through December 8 |
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD D’Youville College/Kavinoky Theatre
By Augustine Warner
At its heart, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a courtroom drama.
This is a story from the Jim Crow South, 1935 Alabama, a time when even a lawyer is paid in veggies because there is no cash in these depths of the Great Depression.
It’s in an imaginary town, based on Lee’s home town, where the Klan rides to ensure control.
There is a subtle Resistance.
Lee’s story was made into a classic movie and into two versions of a play, perhaps best known locally as the last production in the old Studio Arena Theatre before it was run into the ground.
Now, it’s a massive hit on Broadway, reconfigured by Aaron Sorkin, known for the TV show “The West Wing.”
This is a very different script, far less the story of the heroic Atticus Finch and his coming of age daughter, Scout.
Instead, Sorkin centers the story on the charging and trial of Tom Robinson (Xavier Harris), a Black family man charged with raping the daughter of the local vicious, racist Bob Ewell (Patrick Moltane), a Klan leader.
Finch (Chris Avery) legally represents the poor, especially those who are in danger of losing their property to the predatory banks, hit hard by the Crash.
Along with maid Calpurnia (Shatinna Moore), he’s raising Scout (Aleks Malejs) and Jem (Michael Seitz).
Both Calpurnia and Jem are much more prominent characters in this version of the story.
Much of the societal story is made clearer with the Kav’s use of Brian Milbrand’s images on the screen high above the stage, telling the story of the South and the long effort to reverse the results of the Civil War.
Judge Taylor (Peter Palmisano) knows his neighbors and arranges for Finch to defend Robinson.
That defense doesn’t go over well because of the racial dynamics of the situation and the Klan appears.
Scout, Jem and friend Dill (Jacob Albarella) can’t completely understand what’s going around them.
They enjoy summer vacation and grow up in hard times and they are there, watching, as Finch prevents a lynching of Robinson.
Local Sheriff Heck Tate (Kevin Kennedy) doesn’t appear to be around.
It’s no secret that Robinson is going to be convicted.
A jury of 12 White men in rural Alabama knows what it is supposed to do and convicts,.
Bob Ewell’s dysfunctional and brutal family life are made very clear.
He can’t take that and dies in mysterious circumstances, covered up by the Establishment.
Director Kyle LoConti has a very strong cast to work with and a production planned a year ago until Broadway’s legal machinations blocked the show and the Kavinoky had three-weeks to put together a fascinating production of “1984.”
A year later, Atticus Finch stands in front of the jury and fights the good fight, knowing it’s hopeless and doomed.
He has to adhere to his values and the higher values of the Law, when societal values were antagonistic.
Clearly, Sorkin is working within this time and applying history to today.
This is a wonderful production, well-staged and well directed, with a strong cast, Avery’s Finch, Palmisano’s judge, Moore’s Calpurnia, Moltane’s Ewell, Malejs’ Scout and Seitz’ Jem, David Lundy’s Link Dees, Ray Boucher’s awful prosecutor Mr. Gilmer and Robyn Baun’s tragic Mayella Ewell.
Be aware, there is language in “To Kill a Mockingbird” which is standard for that time, while offensive today, as are the racial views clearly pervasive in the time and some may not react well to what’s said on stage or shown.
Looking at our past gives us an idea how we came to be here.
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