Theater Info for the Washington DC region

St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School To Kill A Mockingbird

By • Nov 4th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

The sun rises on Maycomb, Alabama, in 1935. The children are playing outside, the matrons are tending their flowers — and a lone voice, trapped behind a window screen, mourns the bloodshed and hate that so many in Maycomb are unwilling to see. So begins To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s tale of racial injustice and lost innocence, expertly staged by St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School.

The novel To Kill A Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960; in 1990, Christopher Sergel adapted it into a full-length play. Like the novel, the play follows the coming-of-age of young Scout Finch (Margaret Edmonds) and the moral but unpopular struggle of her lawyer father Atticus (Greg Neithamer) over the course of a racially charged trial. As narrated by the compassionate Miss Maudie (Emma Oxford), the trial shows Scout both the goodness and cruelty that humanity is capable of.

To Kill A Mockingbird is in some ways the story of a diverse town — saddling a high school cast with the challenge of creating a diverse yet cohesive ensemble. The talented actors at St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes achieved all that and more, putting forth both a wide array of exemplary individual performances and a constant group chemistry that drove the play forward.

Principled and loving, fiery and accessible, Neithamer’s portrayal of Atticus never faltered, presenting the audience with a sympathetic and three-dimensional protagonist. Yet, if Atticus was To Kill A Mockingbird‘s hero, Oxford’s Miss Maudie was its anchor. Her graceful, intricate performance added depth to a seemingly simple character; her monologues showed skill and presence uncommon in high school actors. And in the crucial role of Scout, Edmonds used childlike mannerisms to provide a deft contrast with the older figures onstage.

As Mayella Ewell, the trial’s destitute, amoral complainant, Natalie Walker brought an earthy splendor to the stage. Her remarkable turn combined desperation, misery and pride, depicting Mayella not as a demonic caricature but as a flawed, frightened young girl. Also commendable were Chris Luggiero, terrifying as Mayella’s deranged father, and Henry Knotts as the awkward, fanciful boy Dill. Though some actors were difficult to understand at times, perhaps due to the play’s mostly excellent Southern accents, nearly every performance was emotionally strong. And even when soliloquies had a few too many pauses, each student onstage maintained sparkling, consistent energy.

Though the cast of To Kill A Mockingbird set a sky-high bar, the show’s technical work proved the crew no less adroit. Lighting, subtle yet colorful, was of professional caliber in its design and execution; the historically accurate props (selected by Katie McLean) added to the production’s period feel. And despite some unfortunate microphone lapses, sound effects were always well-selected and on cue.

Fraught with mature themes, To Kill A Mockingbird is difficult material for any high school to perform — but St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School’s beautiful production followed the ups and downs of Maycomb, Alabama with maturity and passion.

To Kill a Mockingbird will be presented for a second weekend, Friday and Saturday, November 7 and 8 at 8:00PM. It’s not to be missed.

by Sarah Marx of Homeschool Teens N Theatre

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