Theatre in the Park’s production of the beloved classic “ To Kill a Mockingbird,” directed by Ira David Wood III, opens with a full-dark pause, followed by all of the characters standing in silhouette. This opener effectively immerses viewers in the 1930s Alabama inhabited by young Scout Finch (Marleigh Purgar-McDonald), a spunky and somewhat-precocious little tomboy; her summer-friend Dill (Noah Daniel Zevin); her big brother, Jem (Austin Spero); and her widowed father, Atticus (Ira David Wood III). In line with Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel of the same name, the play version, dramatized by Christopher Sergel, follows the family and the challenges it faces as Atticus defends an African-American man charged with rape, as well as relating the poignant coming-of-age story of Scout and company.
In addition to beautiful directing touches like those described above, the soft lighting by Stephen J. Larson, which truly does create an authentic southern-summer-nights feel, and the expansive set, also by Larson, lend themselves to a transcendent experience.
And, of course, the child-actors are pretty darn adorable! Purgar-McDonald, looking cutely scruffy with a tomboyish coiffure, bounces with energy and life in her role as Scout, while Spero’s Jem conveys a deeper understanding of the character than might be expected from one so young. Finally, Little Zevin, a third grader, adds sweetness to every scene he’s in.
A good production of “Mockingbird” is not possible without a stellar Atticus Finch, and fortunately, Wood does justice to the role. Though Wood experienced a (charming) mishap with his sliding glasses—one that he handled like a pro—at the opening night performance, he exhibited the skill and strong character acting that he is known (and loved) for. His courtroom monologues are particularly poignant and well-delivered.
Even the minor characters step up to the challenge of making the production a success. TIP finds a Bob Ewell just as greasy as his name in Mike Raab, and Kelly McConkey as Mayella Ewell makes the most of her courtroom scenes. Also, Juanda Lajoyce Holley’s Calpurnia possesses just the right combination of love and sternness.
An excellent cast, near-perfect direction and set design, some really great costumes by Susan Smith and Shawn Stewart Larson, and of course, a timeless story that everyone can relate to, integrate to create a charming production.
Theatre in the Park presents TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, starring as Atticus Finch, at 7:30 p.m. April 12 and 13, 2 p.m. April 14, 7:30 p.m. April 18-20, 3 p.m. April 21, 7:30 p.m. April 26 and 27, and 3 p.m. April 28 in in the Ira David Wood III Pullen Park Theatre, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22($16 students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 919-831-6058 or http://www.etix.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6058.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmY-iREBxeQ&feature=player_embedded.
To Kill a Mockingbird (novel): http://tokillamockingbird50year.com/ (HarperCollins Publishers: “To Kill a Mockingbird at 50″), http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1140 (Encyclopedia of Alabama) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird (Wikipedia).
Harper Lee (novelist): http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1126 (Encyclopedia of Alabama), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harper_Lee (Wikipedia), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0497369/ (Internet Movie Database).
To Kill a Mockingbird (film): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(film) (Wikipedia), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/20116/To-Kill-a-Mockingbird/ (Turner Classic Movies), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056592/ (Internet Movie Database).
To Kill a Mockingbird (play): http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=1565 (Dramatic Publishing).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/mockingbird/mockingbird.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival).
Christopher Sergel (playwright): http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/AuthorBio.php?titlelink=9848 (Dramatic Publishing), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=4839 (Internet Broadway Database).
Ira David Wood III (director): http://www.theatreinthepark.com/who_we_are.php (Theaytre in the Park bio) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_David_Wood_III (Wikipedia).