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To Kill a Mockingbird

Race relations in the United States have improved enough to produce an African-American president, but we should not let this milestone fool us into thinking that the problem has been solved. If you look at where the North American and European Caucasians take their wars–for–profit these days, you'll see they are aimed squarely at peoples of color, whether on foreign or domestic soil, New Orleans being a case in point.

Harper Lee's 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, which explores racism in the American South, has long been recognized as a classic in this country and around the world. The 1962 film version was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won three, including best actor (Gregory Peck) and best-adapted screenplay (Horton Foote). In 1990, the stageplay debuted in Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. The story is based on an incident that occurred outside of Monroeville when Lee was 10-years old.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's current production, based on Christopher Sergel's adaptation of the novel, captures the languid atmosphere, melodic idiom, polite veneer, and blatant intolerance of the Deep South, twenty years before Brown v. the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Movement began to push back.

(Left to Right) Michael Kane as
(Left to Right) Michael Kane
as "Boo" Radley, Ellie Schwartz as Scout,
and Sam Gregory as Atticus Finch
Photo Credit: Glenn Asakawa for CU Communications
Tom Robinson (Doug Bynum), a married African-American male is accused of raping Mayella Ewell (Emily Schmidt-Beuchat), a poor, uneducated white woman. The responsibility for defending Tom falls on Atticus Finch (Sam Gregory), a thoughtful, unassuming local lawyer and widower with a 12-year old boy, Jem (Connor Shearrer), and a 9-year old girl, Scout (Ellie Schwartz).

The story is told through the eyes of the adult Scout (known by her given name, Jean Louise Finch), recollecting her childhood, lessons she learned at her father's knee, and the incident itself. Much like Huck Finn, Scout's innocent view of the world provides an educational opportunity for examining the irrational roots of racism and other adult maladies.

Director Jane Page elicits relaxed and honest performances from Schwartz and Sharrer, and Alex Rosenthal as Dill, their 10-year old companion, providing the catalyst for a poignant and powerful powerful production. Tammy Meneghini's narration as the adult Scout, bathes the story in the warm glow of memory.

(Left to right) Tammy Meneghini as adult Jean Louise Finch (Scout), Ellie Schwartz as young Scout, Alex Rosenthal as Dill, Conner Shearrer as Jem, Bradley Spann as Reverend Sykes, and Sam Gregory as Atticus Finch
(Left to right) Tammy Meneghini as
adult Jean Louise Finch (Scout),
Ellie Schwartz as young Scout, Alex Rosenthal as Dill,
Conner Shearrer as Jem,
Bradley Spann as Reverend Sykes,
and Sam Gregory as Atticus Finch
Photo Credit: Glenn Asakawa for CU Communications
Sam Gregory brings kindness, consideration, and wisdom to Atticus without sacrificing his fatherly authority and willingness to reproach his charges whenever their behavior warrants it. His courtroom demeanor delivers a powerful message. Chip Persons mines a vein of nastiness that elevates Bob Ewell to a Shakespearean villain. Kristen Adele's Calpurnia sparkles. Karen Slack's cameo as the bitter pill, Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is a hoot.

Strong performances by the ensemble plus Andrea Bechert's evocative scenic design round out the well-crafted tale.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's To Kill A Mockingbird runs in repertory with Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and Two Gentlemen of Verona through August 9th on the University of Colorado–Boulder campus. 303-492-0554 or at www.coloradoshakes.org.

Bob Bows

 

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