Theatre Information

Virginia Repertory Theatre To Kill a Mockingbird

By • Sep 28th, 2013 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
To Kill a Mockingbird
Virginia Repertory Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Virginia Rep Center – November Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through October 20th
2:00 with intermission
$46/$38 Standard/$30 Value
Reviewed September 27th, 2013

For those who have never seen To Kill a Mockingbird; either the classic Gregory Peck movie, or the play (or read the American Classic novel by Harper Lee); it is the ultimate story about racism in the old south. Attorney Atticus Finch (Adrian Rieder) is assigned to defend a black man, Tom Robinson (A.J. Calbert) who is accused of beating and raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell (Suzanne Grey) in 1935 Depression Era Alabama.

The difficulty in tackling a well-known work like this is avoiding comparisons; however Virginia Rep has made the show their own. The novel and movie tell the story from the perspective of Finch’s daughter Jean Louise “Scout” Finch (Molly Nugent). However, in this version, several characters take on a narrative role; most notably neighbor Maudie Atkinson (Laine Satterfield) who serves as the voice of the true minority at the time — those who believed in equality.

The two keys to the story are Finch’s integrity and the innocent naïve hopefulness of his two children, Scout and Jem (Nick Dauley) and their friend Dill (Henry Boyle) who all serve as the audience’s moral compass.

Rieder’s portrayal of Finch clearly distinguishes itself from Gregory Peck’s. He is more home-sprung and simple and less imposing. While his dialect sounded more New England-like to me (reminiscent of the Pepperidge Farm commercials) his character and demeanor were consistent and steady. One of the shows’ most poignant scenes is when Finch directly addresses the audience as if they were the jury in a style more like Jimmy Stewart’s everyman.

Nugent’s Scout is spunky, inquisitive, and innocent-yet wise beyond her years. Both she and Dauley deftly display their father’s serious, introspective and no-nonsense nature. Boyle stands out as their young friend. He is quirky like the character of Brick on “The Middle;” yet natural and believable. It is through the trio’s eyes that the audience must come to grips with ideas of prejudices against race, gender and mental illness; and each young actor expresses compassion and maturity in their performances.

Notable supporting performances include Gray as the emotionally volatile accuser; and Ron Reid as her dark, evil and ignorant father. Gordan Bass is a powerful presence as Sheriff Heck Tate and Debbie Gayle Taylor is down to earth as the domineering housekeeper Calpurnia. Satterfield, Terri Moore and Mollie Ort (who effectively portrays a woman much older than herself) are all natural as three of the Finch’s neighbors expressing divergent opinions on the trial and on racism. A.J. Calbert was a bit too calm and emotionless as the man on trial for his life. Director Rusty Wilson’s staging works well overall, but some minor touches need to be ironed out, such as having Jem lightly toss a football into the wings when he was angry; and a clearly faked gunshot used instead of blanks.

Ron Keller’s set design was ambitious, making one of the area’s largest stages almost seem small, but finding ways to transform it into both the exterior of the Finch’s house and the courtroom. The choir seated on a second level throughout the play, which also serves as the Negro-seating section of the courtroom, gave them an image of almost serving as a Greek Chorus, watching over all the action. There were some glitches in the transition to the court room, and having the women in their fine southern outfits double as set crew was a bit distracting. Lynne M. Hartman’s lights worked beautifully in creating the mood and time of day. Elizabeth Weiss Hopper’s costumes were period appropriate and enhanced the characters and their images and stations in life.

The moral messages of To Kill a Mockingbird are timeless: trying to understand others and considering things from their perspective — walking in their shoes; and treating others fairly — just as it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird because they don’t do any harm. It would also be a sin to miss Virginia Rep’s morally provocative production of To Kill A Mockingbird (however, parents beware, in presenting the poignant messages there is some strong language).

Photo Gallery

Adrian Rieder as Atticus Finch Molly Nugent as Scout
Adrian Rieder as Atticus Finch
Molly Nugent as Scout
Henry Boyle as Dill, Molly Nugent as Scout, and Nick Dauley as Jem R. Lee Gregory as Reverend Sykes
Henry Boyle as Dill, Molly Nugent as Scout, and Nick Dauley as Jem
R. Lee Gregory as Reverend Sykes
Photo 1 Photo 2
Photo 1
Photo 2

Photos by Aaron Sutten

The Cast

  • Jean Louise “Scout” Finch: Molly Nugent
  • Jeremy “Jem” Finch: Nick Dauley
  • Atticus Finch: Adrian Rieder
  • Calpurnia: Debbie Gayle Taylor
  • Maudie Atkinson: Laine Satterfield
  • Stephanie Crawford: Terri Moore
  • Mrs. Dubose: Mollie Ort
  • Arthur “Boo” Radley: Dean Knight
  • Charles “Dill” Baker Harris: Henry Boyle
  • Heck Tate: Gordon Bass
  • Judge Taylor: Frank Creasy
  • Reverend Sykes: R. Lee Gregory
  • Mayella Ewell: Suzanne Gray
  • Bob Ewell: Ron Reid
  • Walter Cunningham: Frank Creasy
  • Mr. Gilmer: Ford Flannegan
  • Tom Robinson: A.J. Calbert
  • Choir: Keydron Dunn, Stepahnie M. Hill, Jessi Johnson, Anthony Smith and Alana S. Thomas

The Crew

  • Director: Rusty Wilson
  • Stage Manager: Rick Brandt
  • Set Designer: Ron Keller
  • Lighting Design: Lynne M. Hartman
  • Costume Design: Elizabeth Weiss Hopper
  • Dialect Direction: Amanda Durst

Disclaimer: Virginia Repertory Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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