BWW Reviews: INHERIT THE WIND Transforms Wichita Community Theatre
Inherit the Wind opened last night at Wichita Community Theatre. Through the use of inventive staging, clear and specific story telling and honest performances, director Mark T. Mannette made this classic script feel fresh and relevant.
Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, is based on the infamous Scopes Monkey Trials of 1925. A local school teacher discusses evolutionism in class, and finds himself on trial. Though a few artistic liberties were taken, the core elements of the story remain intact. At the heart of the script is a valuable and necessary concept- independent thought. Effectively, the "right to think" is put on trial, beliefs are challenged and convictions are tested. As with any well written script, it makes you examine your belief system and consider all view points. "College examinations not withstanding, it takes a very smart man to say "I don't know the answers.""
The audience had the usual opening night buzz, but there was a twist. Six lucky audience member were chosen to sit on the jury. Sorry ladies- only men are invited. The script (and history) dictates there were no women on the jury. As usual, Wichita Community Theatre used their small space creatively, making their humble home (a former church) into a black box with the audience on two sides, with the jury on the third. For the scenes in the courtroom, cast members were planted in the audience, creating the energy and excitement necessary for the patrons to feel they are citizens of Hillsboro. The costumes, by Jane Tanner and Christy Railsback, were simple and effective, lending themselves to the story at hand.
Some performance highlights include David Weills and Peter Emery. David Weills, who plays Henry Drummond, can throw you off balance. He is natural and sardonic, and you never know if he is making fun of you or building you up. You don't want to be on Drummond's bad side, but he plays the complex character effortlessly. Peter Emery, who plays Elijah, the illiterate religious zealot, is a charming and memorable scene stealer.
Additional cast members include Lewis D. Mize as the school teacher Bertram Cates, Caitlin Trevino as Melinda, Nate McManis as Howard, Isabelle Scroggie as Rachel, Guy Blankenship as Bollinger, Don Wineke as Mr. Goodfellow, Crystal Meek as Mrs. Krebs, Michael Criss as Reverend Brown, Jim Moreland as Mr. Sillers, Bob Garrett as Cooper, Andrew Blocher as Mr. Dunlap, Paul Snyder as Bannister, Logan Buehler as Davenport, Andrea Weaver as Mrs. Loomis, Myra Mevey as Mrs. Blair, Mauren Kirby as Mrs. McLain, Bryan Welsby as E.K. Hornbeck, Ben Mannette as Timmy, Glenn Williams as Mayor, David Bailey as Brady, Cheryl Pearce as Sarah Brady, Andrew Johnson as Photographer/Reporter, Bob Lancaster as Judge, Ben Blankley as Mr. Meeker, Mark Schuster as Harry Esterbook, Dana Womack as Hot Dog Vendor, Robert Ryder as Mr. Krebs, and Rebekah Valentine as Reuter's Reporter.
Wichita is lucky to have such a vibrant and talented community theatre. The passion in the room is palpable. I urge you to attend this production.
Inherit the Wind runs from January 23rd to February 9th, 2014. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 8:00 pm and Sunday performances at 7:00 pm except February 2nd, which is a 2:00pm matinee. Tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for Students/Seniors/Military. Wichita Community Theatre is located at 258 N Fountain. For tickets call 316-686-128
For more information visit www.wichitact.org