BWW Review: Oklahoma City University Theatre Joins Forces with Oklahoma Children's Theatre in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Jess here. Theatre OCU and Oklahoma Children's Theatre are premiering their first mainstage production of the year, and the story couldn't be more significant.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" is set in Maycomb County, Alabama in 1934. This American literature classic follows the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, and is predicated on the racial tension that plagued the mid 20th Century.
When Atticus Finch, patriarch of the Finch family, is appointed as Robinson's attorney in the case, he and his children, Scout and Jem, face the repercussions of being labeled as "race traitors," and are scrutinized as they stand up for what is benevolent, as opposed to turning a blind eye and remaining passive in the face of prejudice and immorality.
The Director, Elin Bhaird, also serves as the Artistic Director of Oklahoma Children's Theatre. Bhaird did a great job in not only blocking this work, but also made the show relevant and applicable in its storytelling. The actors onstage appeared educated and sensitive to the topics they were addressing, and the directorial expertise of Bhaird definitely added to the effectiveness of the tale. The blocking was creative, and helped to elaborate the story which called for dynamic movement.
Megan Berning (Scout Finch) and Andrew Lewis (Jem Finch) played a compelling duo throughout the show. The pair played not only convincing siblings, but additionally had great chemistry onstage that kept the plot entertaining. The two played perfectly off the delightful Trevor Rau (Dill), which definitely added to the greatness of their performances. Serving as the three narrators of the piece is no easy feat, and the trio of actors clearly put the work into preparing their art.
Eric Starkey (Atticus Finch) brought a complexity to his character that I found enlightening and refreshing. The original story presents Atticus as a "perfect man" who can do no wrong, yet the new story reveals Atticus as a man struggling with his own morals. Stark delivered exactly what the revised story called for, and his connection with the text and fellow actors made me see Atticus in a different light.
Devon Frost (Tom Robinson) gave a truly compelling performance, with his portrayal of Tom giving the show the backbone of relevance it needed. The honesty and intricacy of his role was spot on, and I feel he represented his character perfectly.
One of my favorite performances of the evening was given by Sara Byerly (Mayella Ewell). Her portrayal as both a victim and a villain was convincing, and her major monologue had an arch that was captivating to experience.
Evan Clear (Calpurnia) was also a favorite of mine. She brought an incredibly grounded strength to her character, and I looked forward to every time she would come onstage. The wisdom and hard-hitting truth she put into her performance bridged the gap necessary to allow the story's relevance to push from the past, to the present day.
The set and technical design of the piece served the story very well. By creating a set that could be used for all locations in the plot, the minimal set changes were quick and non-distracting. Jason Foreman (Scenic Designer) created an effective and functional set, which allowed the work of Rick Reeves (Digital Media Design) to shine through, thereby creating a more specific ambiance as necessary.
Overall, this show was a fantastic display of what OCU Theatre is capable of. The cast delivered a strong, impactful performance, and made the connections to current day politics very clear. OCU Theatre knows that art is meant to spark change, and this show is effective in creating dialogue regarding the current disheveled state of race relations in our country.
I am proud of my colleagues for putting their heart and soul into such an important tale, and I know their story will continue to inspire audiences throughout the entirety of its run.
Scout : Megan Berning
Jem : Andrew Lewis
Dill : Trevor Rau
Bailiff : Ryley "RJ" Flud
Gilmer : Tyler Jones
Sheriff Tate : Cole Duffy
Judge Taylor : Terry Veal
Atticus : Eric Starkey
Mr. Cunningham : Luke Barrett
Tom : Devon Frost
Miss Stephanie : Adrianna DelPercio
Bob Ewell : Mike Waugh
Calpurnia : Evan Clear
Mayella Ewell : Sara Byerly
Mrs. Dubose : Elizabeth Ann Hicks
Mob Member #1 : Grant Wilson
Mob Member #2 : Logan Wilkinson
Mob Member #3 : Bret Williams
Link Deas : Dustin Dale Barlow
Dill's Mother : Kaiden Lynn Maines
Dr. Reynolds : Oliver Kennedy
Boo Radley : Gareth Forsberg
DESIGN & PRODUCTION TEAM
Director : Elin Bhaird
Assistant Director : Joe Bonfiglio
Fight Director : Luke Eddy
Fight Captain : Gareth Forsberg
Scenic Designer : Jason Foreman
Costume Designer : Emma Hendren
Lighting Designer : Landry Strickland
Sound Designer : Jacob Henry
Properties Master : Logan Jacisin
Digital Media Design : Rick Reeves
Stage Manager : Audrey Mantia
Technical Director : Sydney Bryan
Assistant Lighting Designer : Taylor Schult
Assistant Properties Master : Katelyn Walp
Assistant Stage Manager : Keegan Johnston, Lauren Madsen
Production Electrician : Meghan Settle
Costume Technicians: Gabriel Bastidas, Anna Cantu, Turner Carson, Meredith England, Maya Ferrer-Toolsie, Emma Hendren, Sydnee Lasseigne, Hannah Mansfield, AJ Milunas, Reagan Williams, Erin Wilson
Wardrobe Supervisor : Anna Cantu
Wardrobe Crew : Victoria Blackburn, Tessa Neeno, Macy Rex, Reid Saari
Shop Carpenters, Props, and Painters : Cale Coffia, Sydney Hagen Logan Jacisin, Tessa Neeno, Audrey Mantia, Emorie Mansur, Eliana Perez, Claire Police, Sarah Muscarella, Hunter Norris, Carlee Robertson, Dilynn Stoval, Kaye Swindell, Clara Wiebe, Andy Wilding, Courtney Quinn
Shop Electricians : Megan Fouts, Meghan Settle, Landry Strickland, Kaye Swindell, Cadence Tyson, Andy Wilding
Light Board Operator : Ethan Drezner
Sound Board Operator : Mark Munoz
Projections Operator : Harley Harris
Run Crew : Julian Ibarra, Michael Jobe, Vance Klassen
Props Crew : Tony Kesserwani, Maddie Powell
Official Photographer : Brian Cardinale-Powell