When you write a book like "To Kill A Mockingbird," do you think you know it’s going to become a classic? I always wonder that about the seemingly humble Harper Lee. After a Pulitzer Prize, numerous other awards, millions of copies sold and even an Oscar-winning film adaptation though, I guess you know what you’ve got.
Dallas Theater Center’s production of Lee’s classic story of race, the law and growing up, carries on the American tradition of the last fifty years and pays homage to a story that at this rate, may never become irrelevant.
Set in a small Southern town in the 1960’s, Lee’s story follows the young Scout and her father Atticus Finch as they both deal with racial inequalities in their own way; Finch by representing a young black man accused of rape in a time in which a white man’s word was always taken over that of a black man and Scout, by watching her father and his interactions with his close-minded neighbors.
Anyone who grew up during the Civil Rights era, especially in the South, can probably relate. Even the younger generation however, knows racism is far from an issue of the past, hence the intensely personal connection many feel with Lee’s masterpiece.
The DTC produced play is an admirable attempt at squeezing such a powerful story into a two-hour production. It’s also the first time the theater has co-produced a play with Fort Worth’s Casa Manana and the acting in this play is therefore phenomenal.
DTC company members Sally Nystuen Vahle as Miss Maudie and Matthew Gray as Heck Tate shine, while Casa Manana company members Morgan Richards as the adorable Scout and Akron Watson as the accused Tom Robinson turn in stellar performances as well.
Director Wendy Dann elicits powerful performances from almost her entire cast and award-winning actor Jeremy Webb is an excellent Atticus. Seriously, the courtroom speech will give you goose-bumps.
The acting and staging of the play are well worth the ticket price. My only complaint is the play was too short. All of the action seemed just a little rushed, meaning the, in my opinion, necessary emotional connection between the actors, the story and the audience, never really clicked.
Despite the few areas in which it falls short, DTC’s "To Kill A Mockingbird" should definitely fit somewhere in your upcoming weeks; it’s never a bad thing to be reminded of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
Dallas Theater Center’s "To Kill a Mockingbird" runs at the Wyly Theater, part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, through November 20. Visit www.dallastheatercenter.org for show times and ticket prices, and get some theater in your life Dallas!