One would be hard pressed to find many people in this country who have not read Harper Lee’s ’To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel published in 1960 that was required reading in high schools and middle schools. The 1962 Oscar winning film version starring Gregory Peck further popularized the classic tale. Now, Broadway in Indianapolis brings Allan Sorkin‘s dramatic adaptation to Indy with the stage version at Clowes Hall at Butler University, starring Emmy Award winning Richard Thomas best known as John Boy in “The Waltons.” I attended the Tuesday opening night performance of the play which runs until Sunday, Jan. 28.
Set in Alabama in 1934, Harper Lee’s enduring story of racial injustice and childhood innocence centers on one of the most venerated characters in American literature —small-town lawyer Atticus Finch. The cast of characters includes Atticus’s daughter Scout, her brother Jem, their housekeeper and caretaker, Calpurnia, their visiting friend Dill, and a mysterious neighbor, the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley. The other indelible residents of Maycomb, Alabama, are Bob Ewell, Tom Robinson, prosecutor Horace Gilmer, Judge Taylor and Mayella Ewell. If you haven’s yet read the novel I will spare you spoilers but can tell you the story focusing on Atticus, who represents Black man Tom Robinson, falsely charged for raping a white woman, is among one of the most gripping courtroom scenes ever depicted.
The play is lengthy but it was so gripping that time passed quickly due to Richard Thomas’s performance Atticus which was alternately warm, funny and riveting. The entire cast was uniformly superb, especially Yaegel T. Welch as Tom Robinson, Jacqueline Williams as Calpurnia and Ted Koch as Bob Ewell. Also outstanding were the performances turned in by Scout Bakus as Scout, Justin Mark as Jem and Stephen Lee Robinson as Dill.
The multi-functional set, lighting and 3os-era set, costumes, props and marvelous sound design and score were of the quality of the 2018 Broadway production from which it was duplicated.
The play’s script, which focuses on racial injustice, might be seen by some as just another “white savior” trope, but in it’s time it was considered groundbreaking. It’s tragic thing that, racism may not be as directly brutal as it was in the 30’s but with all the hate and injustice that is raising its ugly head these days, the play reminds us that there is still much work to be done before everyone in this country is free and equal.
For tickets and information about “To Kill a Mockingbird” visit Broadway in Indianapolis.