“Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird'” Brilliant Retelling at Aronoff
Review by Swapna Mirashi
“Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’” is a meditation. It amuses you, punches you in your face, moves you, gives you hope and keeps you in rapt attention throughout its 2 hours and 35 minutes.
“To Kill A Mockingbird” is part of the Broadway in Cincinnati series at the Aronoff Center’s Procter & Gamble Hall and runs through June 12, 2022.
Directed by Bartlett Sher and adapted by Aaron Sorkin the play is a clever adaptation of the 1960 American classic by Harper Lee. Although the story is set in the 1930s, in a fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, the play is relevant to our times. Atticus Finch (brilliantly played by Richard Thomas), is a lawyer and is described as the “most honest and decent person in Maycomb.”
While defending an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman, Finch comes face-to-face with Maycomb’s prejudices, toxic culture of racial hate, discrimination and injustice, both in the court and in the community. The accused man, Tom Robinson (a moving portrayal by Yaegel T. Welch) is resigned to the Maycomb rule for blacks: you are guilty if accused. While he deals with it through surrender, the black cook for the Finch family, Calpurnia (an endearing Jaqueline Williams), uses passive aggressive sarcasm winning over the audience. Two mysterious characters, Tom Robinson’s empathetic white boss Link Deas (brilliant Anthony Natale) and THE Boo Radley (Travis Johns), deal with Maycomb by withdrawing themselves from society.
With their innocence and curiosity, the play’s young narrators relate to the audience the on-stage action and contemplations. They verbalize our thoughts and ask our questions. Atticus’s children Jem and Scout and their friend Dill are a picture of childhood on stage–playful, exuberant, carefree and brimming with hope, courage and a bias for action to set things right. This picture of childhood is especially praiseworthy considering that the actors playing the three kids, absolutely convincingly and delightfully, are adults (Justin Mark, Melanie Moore and Steven Lee Johnson).
Strong performances and the technical brilliance of a Broadway production elevate the “To Kill a Mockingbird” experience. This is a ‘must watch’ for everyone above 12 years of age. If you have loved the book or the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch or loved both or know nothing about them, this Lee-Sorkin-Sher creation is its own and will draw you right in. Instead of 5 stars to rate this play, I give it 5 hearts. Performances continue at the Aronoff Center through June 12. Click HERE for the official ticket link.
Swapna Mirashi is a published writer of over 20 years. She has been actively involved in theater (expat Marathi language and children’s) as an actor and director since 2014.