Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been a classic ever since the story, adapted from the novel of the same name, first made its way to the stage in 1990. The play, which sticks closely to the novel, tells the story of a three year period in the Great Depression, a period during which a young girl, Scout (Christine West) has life as she knows it turned upside down. Her father, Atticus Finch (Hunter Hayes), is a lawyer who has taken it upon himself to defend a black man, Tom Robinson (Keith McDougald), who has been wrongfully accused of rape. Atticus’ decision, though righteous, has consequences for himself and his family, including his son Jem (Carter Godwin) and young Scout. An older version of Scout, now dubbed by her real name, Jean Louise Finch (Keilah Goff), narrates the onstage action throughout this fast-moving, absorbing, and beautifully-written play.
In Harnett Regional Theatre’s production, under the direction of Dennis McCool, the scene is set through three large and impressive set pieces. One side of the stage features the Finch home, while the other houses an impressively rendered tree, central to the story, and the home of the Finch’s reclusive neighbors, the Radleys. The middle of the stage serves as the courthouse and the home of another neighbor. While a lot is fit onto the small stage of the Stewart Theater, each set-piece has life and great detail of its own, making 1930s-era Maycomb, Alabama come fully alive. The tight design also gives an intimate feel to the show, making it all the more captivating.
Also captivating here are the time-perfect costumes. From old-fashioned suits and skirts to authentic vintage overalls, each piece of clothing works to transport viewers to a different, slower time in life. With that said, though, there is nothing slow about this script. Much action is packed into the two-hour show, but careful direction and pacing ensure that not a word of this beautiful story is lost in the shuffle.
Not only is the direction on-point, but the show also benefits from being perfectly cast. Young West has just the right look, down to her brunette braids, to make for a believable Scout, and Goff, as the older version of the character, paces her monologues effectively and gives the right touch of wistful longing to the story’s narration. Carter Godwin, as Jem, plays off of Scout well, effectively portraying the wiser, older brother with an understanding of the character and the script that seems beyond his years. And, of course, in the all-important role of Dill, a lonely little boy who comes to stay with the Finches, Connor Keen does a good job of making the character as endearing as he is in the novel.
As for the older cast members, Hunter Hayes makes for a wise, admirable Atticus while Juanita Velazquez is perfect in her nattering portrayal of Calpurnia, the Finch’s worker. Eugene Chance is wonderfully slimy and detestable as Bob Ewell, the show’s villain, and Kayleigh Clayton gives a powerful performance as his daughter and Tom Robinson’s accuser, Mayella Ewell. And, speaking of Tom Robinson, McDougald nearly steals the show with his perfect delivery of Robinson’s courthouse testimony, nailing some of the script’s most important and poignant moments. And, while all of the large roles are handled effectively, the smaller parts also shine here. Each actor is on point and well-directed, making for a perfect show that feels all too real and relevant in today’s world.
Harnett Regional Theatre presents TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 19 at Stewart Theater, 114 N. Wilson Ave., Dunn, North Carolina 28334.
TICKETS: $15 ($10 students up to age 18 and seniors 60+).
BOX OFFICE: 910-892-3282 or purchase tickets at the door or at the Dunn Area Tourism Authority, 103 E. Cumberland St., Dunn, NC 28334.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960 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://www.imdb.com/name/nm0497369/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harper_Lee (Wikipedia).
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/20116/To-Kill-a-Mockingbird/ (Turner Classic Movies), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056592/ (Internet Movie Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird_(film) (Wikipedia).
To Kill a Mockingbird (1990 play): http://www.dramaticpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=1565 (Dramatic Publishing), http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsS/sergel-christopher.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Kill_a_Mockingbird#Play (Wikipedia).
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.ibdb.com/person.php?id=4839 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/18009 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.