BWW Review: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre

BWW Review: TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre

Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is cherished classic known by millions. The 1960 novel was instantly a commercial blockbuster, winning the Pulitzer Prize and then becoming an Academy Award-winning film starring Gregory Peck.

The story is loosely based on Lee's observations of a racism-prompted event that occurred near her hometown when she was 10 years old.

Playwright Christopher Sergel's version has been produced countless times in schools and regional theaters across the country, yet it's interesting to note that the author had long been reluctant to allow professional stage rights. Lee also famously refused publicity and interviews with an emphatic "Hell, no!"

Under Jennie Richardson's gilded direction, the CenterPoint Legacy Theatre production is direct, unshowy--and moving. With backing from a large ensemble, there's an assured central performance by Annie Ferrin as Maudie, neighbor to Atticus Finch, a noble attorney who risks his life to defend an unjustly accused black man in Depression-era Alabama. Ferrin also becomes Atticus' adult daughter, the curious Scout, as narrator, who warmly recites many quotations from Lee's novel to combine the voice of a child observing her surroundings with a grown woman's reflections on her childhood.

The struggle between individual principles and a widely held acceptance of prejudice is revealed in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD when Atticus explains "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

The staging eschews the mawkish sentimentality plaguing other productions to reveal dramatic honesty.

While there are few nuanced hints of Atticus' emotional damage in Michael Hohl's portrayal in the Monday-Wednesday-Friday rotating cast with Ferrin, child actors Avery Empey (Scout), Jack Gardner (as her brother Jem) and William Hoagland (playing family pal Dill, a character based on Lee's own lifelong friend, Truman Capote) perform largely naturally and are impressively rehearsed.

Particularly evident in the overalls of Scout and Jem, the director's unfocused costume designs show little to no distressing of frequent wearing, and Scott Van Dyke's set leads us to believe the Finch home is equally weathered as their neighbor's dilapidated shack and shows no contrast in the two social classes.

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