Oscar E Moore

From the rear mezzanine theatre, movies and moore

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February 28th, 2019 by Oscar E Moore

Worthwhile.  Adjective.  Worth the time, effort or money spent; of value or importance.  And it is this word that describes beautifully this compassionate and memorable memory play TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD that might (and should) run forever at the Shubert Theatre.

Harper Lee rightfully gets top billing in this re-imagined and brilliant theatrical production based on the characters and story she created in her Pulitzer Prize winning 1961 novel of the same name that dealt with racism and injustice in the Depression era of the South.

It’s the best of folks and the worst of folks – featuring the good the bad and the truth.  An unflinching look at race relations that is as relevant today as it was then.

Unfortunately false accusations are still rampant.  Racism is still rampant.   And few theatrical productions face these problems head on.  So lyrically.  So honestly.  So eloquently.

This “new play” by Aaron Sorkin is just that.  A new, re-imagined, re-structured look at a classic story that is in itself riveting without losing the essence of Harper Lee’s timeless creation.

Add to that the superb, fluid staging, pacing and sensitive direction of Bartlett Sher and you get a fresh new look at the trial of Tom Robinson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a black handyman and family man who has lost the use of his left arm and is accused of raping the fragile, timid and white Mayella Ewell (Erin Wilhelmi) – allegedly caught in the act by her dad Bob Ewell, who only has one thing in mind and that is to get this “savage sub-human nigga” one way or another.

Ewell is the prime witness for prosecutor Horace Gilmer (Stark Sands) who faces off against Atticus Finch while Judge Taylor (Dakin Matthews) with a not very subtle humor steals each one of his scenes – adding levity to a very serious trial.

The story unfolds as Scout Finch (a bright, sassy, always questioning and remarkable Celia Keenan-Bolger with an observant eye well beyond her years) remembers and brings us back to her tomboy days in Maycomb, Alabama 1934.

She is our narrator along with her brother Jem Finch (a reliable Will Pullen) and visiting pal Dill Harris (a quirky Gideon Glick).  This trio lurks in the foreground and background.  Always present.  Running or playing or bearing witness to the proceedings.  It’s a fabulous feat of writing and structure by Mr. Sorkin manifested by Mr. Sher.

Atticus Finch (a strong, crafty yet compassionate Jeff Daniels) defends Tom Robinson the accused, as we seamlessly go back and forth to the trial and meet the various colorful townsfolk that fill the stage at the Shubert.

Calpurnia (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) the Negro cook, not afraid to talk back with her wry comments, the elderly acid tongued gardener Mrs. Henry Dubose (Phyllis Somerville), Link Dees (Neal Huff) the town drunk, and quiet, house bound Boo Radley (Danny Wolohan) who in his silence becomes most important.

Stylish and accurate costumes (Ann Roth).  Appropriate lighting (Jennifer Tipton).  Perfect scenic design (Miriam Buether).  The exterior faded red clapboard wall filling the proscenium with its single door allows Scout to lead us into the world of Maycomb.

On either side of the stage a guitarist (Allen Tedder) and pump organ (Kimberly Grigsby) unobtrusively add atmospheric background music by Adam Guettel.

Atticus is a kindhearted and generous widower who tries to teach his children to see the best in even the worst of people and that there is a right way to accomplish things.  Perhaps not better, but right. Accompanied with the realization that the wrong answer can sometimes be right and that the truth can have multiple meanings.  Oh, precious truth, rise above all.

2 hours and 35 minutes.  One intermission.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


Photos:  Julieta Cervantes

Visit www.TalkEntertainment.com

NOTE:  Throughout the run, the production from Rudin and Lincoln Center Theater will partner with the New York City Department of Education to offer tickets priced at ten dollars to groups of middle and high school students throughout the New York City public school system.

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