All rise for Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterwork, To Kill a Mockingbird which is currently running at Washington D.C.'S world-famous Kennedy Center.
It's the summer of 1934, and the Finch siblings Scout (Melanie Moore) and Jem (Justin Mark) reside in the fictitious town of Maycomb, Alabama. Their father, Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas), is a lawyer who has taken on the case of Tom Robinson (Yaegel T. Welch), a black man on trial for a crime he didn't commit.
The accusation is the rape of a white woman named Mayella Ewell (Arianna Gayle Stucki). Naturally, Tom faces a jury of entirely white peers and will face the electric chair if convicted. Over the course of the trail, the Finch family comes to know Dill (Steven Lee Johnson), the nephew of a neighbor, and learn about life.
I hadn't read or seen the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird since the late nineties. As a theater fan, I was anxious to see how Aaron Sorkin would bring his signature writing style to the material. Sorkin's knack for memorable lines and fast pacing has always impressed me. The moment the play opens with an opening monologue by Melanie Moore's Scout, we are in for a ride. Next to Atticus, I would say Scout is the showiest character in the play, and Moore knocks it out of the park.
One of the most well-known characters in the play is Atticus Finch, whom Gregory Peck played in the 1962 film adaptation for which he received an Academy Award. However, this adaption is all about Richard Thomas, who more than makes the role his own. What I most enjoyed about Thomas is his calm demeanor of a man trying to do the right thing and the way he slowly builds up to showy moments to showcase Sorkin's dialogue.
Generally, that's the gravitation of the supporting cast that carries the play as Sorkin wants everyone to have a moment, even the villains. Joey Collins is downright despicable as Bob Ewell, thus making for a compelling bad guy. On the flip side, Steven Lee Johnson injects humor into the play when needed as Dill Harris. Kudos to Yaegel T. Welch for his performance as Tom Robinson, which will instantly break your heart.
To Kill A Mockingbird may take place ninety years ago, but its central elements are still relevant today. During Act 2, there is an eye-opening moment between Calpurnia (Jacqueline Williams), the Finch's black family housekeeper, and Atticus garnered thunderous applause from the audience. Never dull and still a story for our time, To Kill a Mockingbird is worth your time.
Final Grade: A
To Kill a Mockingbird runs through July 10th at The Kennedy Center