Do Not Miss Highly Relevant “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Review by Grace Eichler
For most of us, it’s been decades since we read Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” somewhere in our adolescence. Maybe since then we’ve watched the 1962 film, or seen references to it in pop culture. But until Aaron Sorkin’s new adaptation elevates the words into a devastatingly relatable stage play. Broadway in Cincinnati brings this classic story to the Aronoff Center from May 31 – June 12, 2022.
The narrative is shuffled around to take place between moments of Tom Robinson’s trial. Jumping around in time and place, the three narrators of Scout Finch (Melanie Moore), Jem Finch (Justin Mark) and Dill Harris (Steven Lee Johnson) bring us into 1934 Maycomb, Alabama. As Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas) defends a black man who stands wrongfully accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman (Arianna Gayle Stucki), we meet the townspeople of Maycomb in a post-Depression, pre-Civil Rights era.
Opening on a sparse, almost industrial stage, Miriam Buether’s Tony-nominated set transforms from courtroom to front porch to county jail with stunning fluidity. Director Bartlett Sher’s staging and pacing supports the youthful energy of our narrators. Coupling Sorkin’s script and Sher’s direction allows for the reactions to emphasize the poignancy, or idiocy, of the impassioned outbursts during the trial.
Headlining the show is Richard Thomas as the incomparable Atticus Finch. This isn’t the quiet, reserved Gregory Peck-style Atticus you may be expecting. As is typical with Aaron Sorkin’s protagonists, there’s an intellectual energy bouncing from him, combined with a wit and humor that could be missed in the original novel.
It’s hard to put in words how relevant this play still is. One of the most profound lines from the script comes from Dill, that when men feel “small” they do things to make themselves feel “big.” You can draw countless conclusions of where these characters would be in today’s society. From the accusation to the betrayal of justice to the vehement regurgitation of generations of hate, it feels like modern day America is not far off from Maycomb.
Regardless of the last time you’ve read Harper Lee, this is a production you should not miss. It’s equal parts devastating and inspiring, with a cast of characters that are easily recognizable as your friends, neighbors and coworkers. As the title reminds us, “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” and it would be a sin to miss this.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs May 31 – June 12, 2022 at the Aronoff Center. Tickets are available via the official Cincinnati Arts Association’s website, by phone at (513) 621-2787 [ARTS], or in person at the Aronoff Center Box Office.
Grace Eichler is a Miami University alum, where she was past president of Stage Left and a mainstage performer. She has a life long love of theatre and is a dentist in Fairfield, living the credo “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.”