‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Comes to Washington with Richard Thomas as Atticus

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As the events of 1934 unfolded this week in Aaron Sorkin’s heartwarming stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Shaye Moss – demonized by Donald Trump The irreproachable Georgia Elections Staff-Shocking testimony came to mind this week.

It’s impossible not to intuit the tragic story of the novelist Harper Lee, Tom Robinson, a black Jim Crow South laborer who was convicted of raping a white man woman was unjustly condemned—in fact, a crime committed by her white father. The scapegoating and intimidation of black people was and is every aspect of American life in blatantly racist circles, and the harmful smears are exposed again, whether in fictional dramas or in the case of a woman falsely accused of voting fraud. in real torture.

I’ve seen Sorkin’s adaptations many times—at the Schubert Theater on Broadway, at Madison Square Garden, with 18,000 teens, and even an excerpt of the performance at the Library of Congress. But the fusion of “then” and “now” of the Alabama courtroom drama has never been more apparent during the tour at the Kennedy Center through July 10.

Watching ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with 18,000 schoolchildren is a profound climax

“Now” is repeatedly hinted at in Sorkin’s script, which director Bartlett Sher deftly brings to the stage, with actors led by Richard Thomas playing the particularly emotional Atticus Finch, the attorney defending Tom. “The mob is where people go to relax their conscience,” Atticus teaches his children, Scott (Melanie Moore) and Jem (Justin Mark). “When the horror comes to dinner, it dresses exactly like a Christian,” said Link Deas (Anthony Natale), a white man ostracized for marrying a black woman.

You hear these words over and over again, as if they came not from the Southern courts during the Great Depression, but from the divided jungles of a turbulent 2022. “We must heal this wound,” Atticus declared, calling on his neighbors better angels in the conclusion of his defense, “or we will never stop bleeding.”

It must be noted that since this is Sorkin’s masterpiece, the rhetoric is full of lyrical flamboyance — and some passionate, ideologically transparent finger-wagging. Overall, the play is well done, and Thomas, who always exudes slick and decent American middle class, has naturally chosen to play the role initiated by Jeff Daniels. Still, the gigantic 2,364-seat opera house is not an ideal setting for a theatre, even one like Robin. I was seated in row 11 of the orchestral section, and even from that vantage point, the action felt a little far off. (A playmate joked that for the audience on the second floor, the play was over in 10 minutes.)

Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels Make “To Kill a Mockingbird” a Mission

In this case, the venue may cause a noticeable increase in the emotional volume of the drama. For example, Bob Ewell, played by Joey Collins, an incorrigible racist villain who threatens the Atticus family, is now so evil that he might as well screw a handful of Nidley’s whipped mustache. The mournful nasal caricature makes it even harder to believe Atticus’ plea that his children have found in their hearts Bob who understands the oppressed. There are also unnecessary escalations, such as the nasty look of characters like Tom’s accuser, Mayella Ewell (Arianna Gayle Stucki) and Mrs. Henry Dubose, played by Mary Badham – in the 1962 film starring Oscar-winning Gregory Served as Boy Scout Peck.

Scott, Jem, and their new friend Dill (Steven Lee Johnson) detail the tragic ending of “The Robin” as they separate the narrative and tie the story between their adult and young selves. Alternate viewing angles. It’s an effective device to advance the plot and keep the gallery of characters around them, and all three actors come across as lively and engaging. The show’s strength, however, lies in the solemn stoicism of its morally righteous character, Jaeger T. Welch’s Tom and Atticus’ longtime butler, Carl Ponia. She’s played here by Jacqueline Williams, with a world-weary authority that has seen and lived through hardship – and the actress wraps her performance brilliantly.

Sorkin wrote award-winning supporting roles for Natale’s Link and Richard Poe’s Judge Taylor, both of whom embroidered the story with reassuring humanity; the population of Maycomb County, Alabama seems to have a fair amount of goodness in its ranks . Atticus is the kindest, but not exactly approved by his children. This trait manifests itself in a racist community that is both failure and virtue, and while Thomas proves to be a completely convincing vessel, Atticus’s baffling insistence that there is good in everyone.

“I believe in respect,” Atticus told Carbonia. She replied, “It doesn’t matter who you do it with disrespect.”

Thomas’ Atticus’ passion is closer to the surface than Daniels or Ed Harris (his Broadway successor). Atticus’ choking while defending Tom’s innocence is new to the character. It’s okay to have Atticus put his heart on his sleeve, but it’s believed that a good actor like Thomas won’t make it an indulgence.

The production of new content is also a small but significant stage adjustment in the final act, which Scheer added to the Broadway version after the pandemic shut down. (The show closed on Broadway earlier this year, but plans to bring it back in the fall.) The adjustment is tied to Tom’s re-emergence and the handing over of the Bible, with the hopeful Atticus citing the Bible line “Joy comes in the morning” “. This has led to the observation that in the theatre, joy may also come at night.

to kill a robin, Aaron Sorkin. Directed by Bartlett Shell. Set, Miriam Buether; Costume, Ann Ross; Lighting, Jennifer Tipton; Voice, Scott Lehrer; Music Director, Kim Grigsby. With David Christopher Wells, Liv Ross, Travis Johns. About 2 hours and 45 minutes. Through July 10 at the Kennedy Center. 202-467-4600. Kennedy Center.org.

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