BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is Meaningful

BWW Review: Hale Centre Theatre's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is Meaningful

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley is a meaningful, thoughtful production that resists excess in its storytelling as it exudes warmth.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a dramatic play adapted by Christopher Sergel from the acclaimed novel by Harper Lee. Scout Finch learns a series of lessons from her father, Atticus, as she grows up in Maycomb, Alabama in 1935. When Atticus, a small town lawyer, defends a black man accused of rape, the effects ripple through his family and town.

Mitch Hall gives a restrained, nuanced performance as Atticus (single cast). His children are played endearingly by real-life siblings Mia Bagley as Scout (double cast with Alyssa Buckner) and Anson Bagley as Jem (double cast with Mathew Rees).

Mary Parker Williams provides expressive narration as the unexpected anchor of the story, neighbor Maudie Atkinson (double cast with Betsy West).

Cairo McGhee as Dill Harris (double cast with Cooper Johnson) and Matt Kohler as Bob Ewell (double cast with Josh Richardson) also deserve special recognition for exceptional performances.

Additional notable supporting performances come from Stephanie Nguyen Lake as Calpurnia (double cast with Rita Martin), Camrey Bagley Fox as Mayella Ewell (double cast with Collette Astle), and Yahosh Bonner as Tom Robinson (double cast with Alec Powell).

The production succeeds at spinning both the heartwarming and haunting elements of the beloved tale, but the emotion is muted, and it rarely meets the dizzying heights of feeling that is its potential to reach. This may have been a directorial choice in order to resist melodrama, but whether or not that is the case, it curbs the audience's cathartic response. This does not render the play unenjoyable--just less enjoyable than it may have been otherwise.

The technical elements eschew ostentatiousness with sensible, appropriate, and attractive imagery. The scenic design by Jennifer Stapley Taylor cleverly utilizes columned platforms as both neighborhood porches and the courtroom. A gnarled, picturesque tree overlooks the proceedings both physically and thematically. The costume design by Peggy Willis is accurate to the time and place and matches the set and script in color and sentiment. The sound design by Dan Morgan and lighting design by Adam Flitton are both afforded moments to shine with carefully rendered offstage dialogue and noise, as well as a visually striking climactic scene infused with lightning flashes.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD plays through May 20, 2017. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.halecentretheatre.org.

Photo Credit: L-R Mia Bagley (Scout) and Mitch Hall (Atticus)

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