For the first time ever North Texas' two best regional theaters have partnered to bring forth a production that will run in both Fort Worth and Dallas. The partnering of such powerhouses as Casa Manana and the Dallas Theater Center was sure to bring a powerful production to life.
They did not choose lightly. Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is without a doubt one of the most important books ever written. So important that in the past few years it has taken the top spot from the Bible in a poll of the most inspirational book ever written, and the list of books that every person should read. This book is without a doubt one every person should read.
Mockingbird tells the story of a small town being dragged through the turmoil of a racially motivated trial, the trial of a black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. It is an amazing portrait of a time when some of our fellow human beings were so reviled and so valueless to their neighbors that an outrageous injustice was allowed.
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite films of all times and I think it is a poignant reminder of the way things were. Winston Churchill famously said “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That is why this is such an important work. That is why this is the book that should be read by every person alive. We need to see the mistakes of our past, and here Lee holds a mirror in our faces forcing us to take a look at what we were and it is painful.
The move to the stage was a natural for this work, the film's screenplay was written by Horton Foote, who wrote some of the greatest plays of the twentieth century.
The role of Atticus Finch, the single father who is appointed to defend the unjustly accused is so closely identified with Gregory Pecks' Brilliant Oscar winning performance that it must be as daunting a role for an actor to accept as Effie in Dreamgirls. The selection of Ira David Wood, III for this part is perfection. Father to actress Evan Rachael Wood, he is no stranger to the stage and made this role his own, which was no small task.
When not in the courtroom, Atticus is trying to protect his children from the racism and injustice rampant in this small town. The roles of the children are not small, and these young actors lived up to the challenge presented them.
Anastasia Munoz and Akron Watson as accuser and accused are present on the stage a very limited time, but their performances are gripping. James Dybas as the accusers father, Bob Ewell so clearly portrayed the bigotry of the time, that I really hated him.
Denise Lee is as always a presence on the stage. For some reason I never realize it is Denise until the end, and it is always when I am furiously flipping through my playbill to see who the actress is that enthralled me so. She does it again here. Her portrayal of Calpernia, the maid that cares for the children when their father is not home is the calm this family needs so badly in the midst of such turbulence. Plus she sings, and it is always good when Denise Lee sings!
An essay competition between area high schools and the night I attended the winner of the contest was in the audience. His essay is amazing beyond his years opening with “Bigotry ends when people are brave enough to step up and be a lantern in the darkest times.” In one sentence Cleburne High School Senior James Guenthner sums up why this play is so important, why this is a lesson all need to hear.
To Kill a Mockingbird Plays Casa Manana through Sunday, October 2nd and then moves across the metroplex to the new Wyly Downtown Dallas on October 20th. Tickets at casamanana.org or dallastheatercenter.org
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