‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Kimmel Cultural Campus is contemporary, powerful and sometimes stern

Relive 1962’s carefully crafted, understated screen adaptation of Harper Lee to kill a robin On the eve of its first look, Aaron Sorkin’s contemporary stage version may have been a mistake. It underscores how unpretentious Sorkin is.

To be clear: National tours run by the Kimmel Cultural Campus in partnership with the Schubert organization are almost always involved. Directed by Bartlett Sher’s clever rhythm, Richard Thomas leads an ensemble (The Waltons, Ozark), reprising the Broadway role of Jeff Daniels.

But messaging can be harsh. The ending is too long. And the protagonist, attorney Atticus Finch—whose portrayal by Sorkin as the subject of a legal battle with Lee’s estate—seems incoherent.

The best-selling 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a meditation on race relations, the dangers of stereotypes, justice gone awry, and the lost innocence of the South during the Great Depression. It’s narrated by an older version of Lee’s avatar, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, albeit mostly from a child’s perspective.

Scout’s father, Atticus, was assigned the Promethean task of defending a black man accused of raping a white woman before an all-white jury. (In this work, Yaegel T. Welch bestows great dignity on Tom Robinson’s character.) There is also a Gothic element in Boo Radley’s enigmatic character, invisible at first and then revealed—like Like many other things in Lee’s fictional Alabama hometown — it’s no longer what he seems.

» Read more: Richard Thomas to star in Philadelphia’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ He talked about the play and his career.

Sorkin offers a deconstructed Robin, rethinking its characters and themes to adapt 21st century audiences to ongoing racial injustice. In an industrial setting, designer Miriam Buether successfully transformed the Kimmel School of Music stage into a courtroom, Finch porch and other environments. But we miss the climax of the story against the ghost of the forest where it takes place.

One plus is the added rather sly humor. At the same time, Sorkin increased his moral enthusiasm, even turning it on Atticus himself, who had to be educated by Carl Ponia, the black butler of the Finch family. It’s wise to give Calpurnia (Jacqueline Williams, majestic and world-weary) a voice (turn it into a megaphone) and Atticus a character arc — even if it doesn’t quite freeze.

Here, Atticus’ signature exhortation to try to see the world from another’s perspective becomes a flaw. He was criticized (by his children etc) for being too tolerant and docile. In the novel, Scott says, “I never heard Atticus raise his voice in his life.” Thomas’ Atticus, however, was prone to passionate outbursts in court: a little Not docile either.

in Sorkin Robin, Caponia couldn’t possibly blame her employer for being arrogant, in fact, this Atticus, unlike Lee’s, was sure he would win his case. But the trigger, which Atticus anachronistically calls “passive-aggression,” is a specific verbal offense that seems to epitomize white rights. In this case, he failed to see the world as she did.

Sorkin’s storytelling is often clever in terms of structure: the narrative twists and turns in time, with courtroom scenes running through it chronologically. The Adult Scout (Melanie Moore) is now with her brother Jem (Justin Mark) and playmate Dill (Steven Lee Johnson, as Lee’s childhood friend Truman Capote’s). one version of impact and fun) to share narrative duties.

Picking out contemporary parallels is easy to spot. Evil Bob Ewell (Joey Collins is very crafty) doubles as “Sad”, turning his own economic misery into racial hostility. The lynching mob, some in Ku Klux Klan turbans, evokes our right-wing militias in costumes and embracing intrigue. A tragic murder is a shocking reminder of the many unjustified police killings on the horizon.

Finally, there’s another stunt cast to savor: Mary Badham’s Oscar-nominated performance as the eccentric Mrs. Henry Dubose, another character—like the incorrigible Eugene Earl – probably not worth the redemption.

To Kill a Mockingbird is hosted by the Kimmel Cultural Campus in partnership with the Schubert Organization at the Kimmel School of Music at 250 S. Broad St. until July 24th. Tickets: $20-139 Information: www.kimmelcuturalcampus.org or 215-893-1999.

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