Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell
August 4, 2022 Issue
A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.
PART 4A: TRIANGLE THEATER REVIEW BY KURT BENRUD
To Kill a Mockingbird at DPAC Features First-Rate Actors,
Impressive Tech, and Spot-On Pacing: SEE THIS SHOW!
Richard Thomas (center) stars as Atticus Finch in Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird (photo by Julieta Cervantes)
No matter how familiar you might be * with the story that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird tells, if possible: SEE THIS SHOW!
The actors are all first-rate, the tech is impressive, and the pacing is spot-on. And the decisions made by playwright Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher in this production of Sorkin's 2018 adaptation of Harper Lee's 1960 novel are delightfully innovative. It is also worth noting that the show captures every nuance expected of 1934 Macon, Alabama society.
An additional degree of delight: the cast includes Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch (and, yes, his initial entrance was greeted with applause) and Mary Badham (she who played Scout Finch in the 1962 film) as Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose. Both of these actors will exceed the expectations of any playgoer, as will the performance of Justin Mark as Jem Finch).
Mary Badham (right), who played Scout Finch in the 1962 film, stars as Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose (photo by Julieta Cervantes)
This adaptation of the novel works the phrase "fell on his own knife" into the dialogue early on, and the effect is positive -- newcomers to the story get that phrase implanted in their minds and thereby experience a heightened sense of fulfillment as the story wraps up, and "veterans" are reminded immediately of the importance of the phrase.
Aaron Sorkin's play makes use of a much-less-linear time sequence in the storytelling, which advances the multiple, intertwined plotlines at an equal pace and also emphasizes that we are experiencing a story filtered through the memories of Scout and Jem Finch and Dill Harris. And this brings us to yet another positive aspect of this production: the narration duties are shared by the three children (as opposed to the Scout-only narration of the novel), and there is interaction and playful banter between these co-narrators that adds further character development and sheer joy to the experience.
I left the theater feeling that I had gotten to know every one of the characters much more deeply than ever before and that I had come to appreciate everyone's point-of-view, including (surprisingly) that of Bob Ewell (for whom Atticus offers an explanation) more so than ever.
Richard Thomas (left) and Yaegel T. Welch star as attorney Atticus Finch and client Tom Robinson (photo by Julieta Cervantes)
All of the characters are interesting and every actor performed exceptionally, but I found three of them standing out in my post-show ruminations: Steven Lee Johnson, Jacqueline Williams, and Travis Johns. Johnson (as Dill) and Williams (as Calpurnia) infused their characters with more depth than I could ever have imagined possible, and both of them showed masterful comic timing (you will see what I mean). Johns (as Mr. Cunningham and Boo Radley) created two characters that were so distinct that, had I not perused the program during intermission, I would never have guessed that the same actor was portraying them.
The evening ended with a raucous, well-earned standing ovation. Get your tickets ASAP -- this run is likely to sell out.
*I have read the book at least four times, and I have seen the 1962 movie at least four times. I taught the book both of my years as a teacher of ninth-grade English, and I have seen two other stage adaptations over the years. And I still came away with an overwhelming feeling of enrichment. My granddaughter, on the other hand, as a rising ninth grader, had never even heard of the book, the movie, or the play; and she left the theater eager for the opportunity to further experience the story by way of movie, book, and English class.
Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, playing now through Sunday, Aug. 7th, at the Durham Performing Arts
Center, stars (from left) Steven Lee Johnson as Dill, Melanie Moore as Scout, and Justin Mark as Jem (photo by Julieta Cervantes)
Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (In Person at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3-7), adapted from her 1960 novel by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Bartlett Sher, starring Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, and presented as part of Truist Broadway at DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham). VIDEOS: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVN7VTelCR2EBsMqnsQDIZg. 2021-22 TRUIST BROADWAY AT DPAC SEASON: https://www.dpacnc.com/truist-broadway/season/2021-2022-truist-broadway-at-dpac. THE PRESENTER/VENUE: https://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://www.instagram.com/DPACNC/, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and https://www.youtube.com/user/DPACLive. DIRECTIONS: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/directions. PARKING: https://www.dpacnc.com/plan-your-visit/parking. DPAC COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS: https://www.dpacnc.com/events/vaccination-and-covid-19-test-requirements. THE TOUR: https://tokillamockingbirdbroadway.com/tour/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/to-kill-a-mockingbird-522655, https://www.facebook.com/tokillamockingbirdbway/, https://www.instagram.com/mockingbirdbway/, https://twitter.com/mockingbirdbway, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVN7VTelCR2EBsMqnsQDIZg. TOUR CAST: https://tokillamockingbirdbroadway.com/tour-bios/. TICKETS: $35 and up, plus taxes and fees. Call 800-982-2787 or click here to buy tickets. GROUPS (10+ tickets): 919-680-2787, Groups@DPACnc.com, and https://www.dpacnc.com/events/groups-services. INFORMATION: 919-680-2787 or CustomerService@DPACnc.com. Susie Potter's Review.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights' Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review.
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