Steve Murray

Performing Arts Reviews

Primary Feature NowPlaying Mocking

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird
Berkeley Playhouse, Berkeley, California
April 30, 2016

Berkeley Playhouse has a hit on its hands with a stunning adaptation by Christopher Sergel of Harper Lee’s poignant novel of lost innocence, injustice and bravery. Skillfully directed by Daren A.C. Carollo, Lee’s delicious words and uniquely southern metaphors bring to life the dark days of racial inequality that still resonate today. There are problems with Sergel’s one-dimensional characterizations like the evil, almost cartoonish white trash Bob Ewell and the shrewish Mrs. Dubose, but the excellent ensemble cast do their best the flesh overcome those limitations. The Boo Radley subplot has been reduced significantly and the transformation of the naïve Scout to a young woman could have been stronger.

Steve Rhyne as Atticus Finch. photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Steve Rhyne as Atticus Finch. photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

Still, this production is beautifully realized and may lead many to re-read or read for the first time, Lee’s epic American masterpiece. Laurie Strawn is excellent, playing the older Jean Louise Finch, who narrates the play and gets the bulk of Lee’s beautiful Southern Gothic poeticism. When shes says “the events of the summer hung over us like smoke in a closed room”, you can feel it’s heaviness. With a simple yet elegant set design by Mark Thomas, Carollo does a fine job of moving his players around Sergel’s static atmosphere. Thomas’ set includes the large barren tree from Boo Radley’s yard that features prominently in the book.

Wonderful performances by Dakota Dry as the young questioning Scout, Jacob Henrie-Naffaa as the solid Jem and the adorable Luka Henrie-Naffaa as the irrepressible Dil make the Act I come alive. The dramatic courtroom second act allows Steve Rhyne a chance to display Atticus Finch’s resolve and courage. While this is the first non-musical play performed by Berkeley Playhouse, composer Donald Tieck has added a poignant score. To Kill a Mockingbird remains important theatre and kudos to this production for doing it right.

 

To Kill a Mockingbird
Julia Morgan Theater, runs April 28 – May 22, 2016
2640 College Ave in Berkeley, CA. Tickets are now
available through the box office. Please call (510) 845-8542 x351
or visit berkeleyplayhouse.org.