Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trinity Repertory Company Presents "To Kill A Mockingbird" - This Mockingbird Sings In A Whole New Key - Through April 3rd

The current production of "To Kill A Mockingbird" presented by Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, RI features some bold choices by Director Brian McEleny.  Based on the iconic novel by recently deceased Harper Lee, the story has been adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel. It might be tempting to think of this familiar story as an "old chestnut" reliving a fictionalized version of events that took place over eighty years ago. In a risky move that worked well for me as an audience member, the Director has inserted into the text brief personal bios spoken by many of the actors, in each case describing incidents from their own lives that made them intimately aware of the pain and reality of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia.  With that bold stroke, Maycomb County, Alabama of the 1930's becomes America of the 21st Century.

Most of us grew up reading the novel and luxuriating in the Academy Award winning performance of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch.  Rather than try to recreate that timeless performance, Stephen Thorne has created his own fresh take on the intrepid country lawyer. His carefully modulated, yet passionate, closing argument to the jury in defense of Tom Robinson (David Samuel) is a tour de force.  Equally impressive among this solid ensemble are Angela Brazil as Scout, Jude Sandy as Jem, Mia Ellis as Calpurnia, Mauro Hantman as Dill, Ashley Mitchell as Mrs. Dubose, Sinan Eczacibasi as Boo Radley and Judge Taylor, Rachel Warren as Miss Maudie Atkinson, Rebecca Gibel as Miss Stephanie Crawford, Will Turner as Walter Cunningham and Mr. Gilmer, Fred Sullivan, Jr. as Heck Tate and Bob Ewell, and Alexis Green as Mayella Ewell.

Stephen Thorne as Atticus Finch
Jude Sandy as Jem
"To Kill A Mockingbird"
Trinity Rep
Through April 3rd

The Elizabeth and Malcolm Chace Theater has been configured in the round for this production.  The effect is close to that of the audience observing an operation in a surgical theater, like the Ether Dome at Massachusetts General Hospital.  We get to watch Atticus carve up the Ewells in his cross-examination.  And, as is sometimes the case in life, "the operation was a success, but . . . . "

The set by Michael McGarty is a simple assemblage of movable student desks and tables, frequently re-configured to suggest the courtroom, the Finch home, a tree.  Liberal and effective use is made of the aisles and upper levels of the theater to recreate the neighborhood around the Finch and Radley homes, as well as to suggest the galleries of the court house.  Costumes by Toni Spadafora bring us back to 1935, Lighting by Byron Winn signals changing moods, as does Sound Design by Peter Sasha Hurowitz.

Several climactic scenes near the end of the play are particularly moving.  Boo Radley's rescue of Scout and Jem teaches them to see Mr. Radley in a new light.  Atticus is forced to wrestle with a moral choice that is hardly black and white when it comes to deciding how to proceed in handling the death of Bob Ewell.

This is a riveting and moving production of a work of art that has been transcribed in book, movie and stage forms. Ms. Lee's masterpiece is in very capable hands with this company.  This "Mockingbird" sings in a new key, and it is a song worthy of our attention.  It is well worth the trip down I-95 to Providence to take in this exceptional production.

Through April 3rd.

Trinity Rep Website



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