To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s seminal story of racism and loss of innocence in the Depression-era south, was published in 1960 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961–years before Congress passed the Civil Rights Act. It was adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel, and under the astute direction of Brenda Hubbard, is now playing at Lakewood Theatre in Lake Oswego.
Most of us know the story. The book is part of the American lexicon to the point that it is taught in our schools. I never tire of the story, its honesty and simplicity, its depiction of great harm done by good people, its truth about how the world works. And the play does credit to the book.
While the novel is narrated by Scout Finch, the play features the Finches’ kindly neighbor, Miss Maudie (Caren Graham) as narrator. Her perfectly tuned friendly and self-effacing style sets the mood for rural, small-town Maycomb, Alabama, and the gentle and not-so-gentle folk who live there. Casting is pitch perfect for the other characters, too–self-righteous Miss Stephanie (Rhona Klein), the grumpy and ill Mrs. Dubose (Jane Fellows), the falsely accused Tom Robinson (Aries Annitya), Sheriff Heck Tate (Hank Cartright), and the rest. Tim Blough’s Atticus Finch is outstanding, as is the vile Bob Ewell played by Anthony Green. Monica Fleetwood shines as the Finch family’s stand-in mother and fierce guardian Calpurnia. But the kids–Scout (Kate McLellan), Jem (Bram Allahdadi) and Dill (Brock Woolworth)–are the heart of the story.
Particulary effective is the barnwood set (John Gerth, Demetri Pavlatos and crew)–houses with front porches untroubled by whitewash that speak volumes to the financially troubled times, a tire swing, and a splattering of potted plants, all easily transformed into a courtroom.
This is a story that continues to remind us, nearly 60 years after its writing, of who we really are, not who think we are or wish to be. It holds up a mirror to the wrongs in our society and the brave people who try to make us better. This excellent production should not be missed. The play runs through December 10th at the Lakewood Theatre Headlee Mainstage.
(Photo: Kate McLellan as Scout, Monica Fleetwood as Calpurnia, and Bram Allahdadi as Jem in Lakewood Theatre’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo by Triumph Photography.)