West Potomac High School Inherit the WindBy Cappies • Nov 15th, 2011 • Category: Cappies
The setting is Little Rock, Arkansas, 1968. Court is in session. Bertram Cates is on trial for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. The prosecution is a top of the line lawyer whose faith in the Lord is unshakeable and is backed by the entirety of the town population. He can quote the Bible from memory and has run for president three times, just barely losing each election. In contrast, the defense attorney is an agnostic, a tricky man possessing a brilliant legal mind and known for being able to twist juries around his finger with complicated wordplays and probing questions. It’s not religion versus science. It’s the question of a man’s right to think. And, regardless of the outcome, West Potomac High School’s Inherit the Wind was indeed a thrilling battle.
Inherit the Wind, by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, debuted on Broadway in 1955. It presents a fictionalized account of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial that took place in 1925. In the play, Bertram Cates is put on trial for teaching the theory of evolution to his high school biology class, in violation of an Arkansas state law. The odds of his acquittal are slim to none, especially with Matthew Harrison Brady on the prosecution. But with Henry Drummond as his attorney, anything is possible.
Ryan Walker brought enthusiasm and energy to the intimidating and important role of Henry Drummond. His overall performance was solid, and he became steadily more convincing as the play progressed, especially standing out in the very last scene with his argument with Hornbeck, putting just the right amount of vehemence into his words.
The quick-witted and acid-tongued reporter, Hornbeck, was played brilliantly by Toby Mananzan. He slipped into his role easily, committing to his character even when only in the background of scenes and creating a refreshing change from the mostly serious tone of the show. Mananzan also demonstrated the ability to skillfully change his emotions in a way that was compelling and believable. The Judge (Nell McKeown) was also impressive. Both her posture and tone realistically portrayed her position of authority in the town. The cast as a whole also deserves commendation. Each actor demonstrated fantastic projection, every word able to be heard even though they weren’t equipped with microphones.
Tech ran smoothly as a whole, functioning without any major glitches. The set was built well for the revolving stage, something which can be very difficult for even professional companies to accomplish. However, using the revolver had the unfortunate consequence of the scene changes being loud and jarring, although they were also quick and allowed there to be two completely different settings during the play. The court room was especially remarkable, creating a wonderfully claustrophobic feeling when people packed into the rows and stared down at the proceedings. Real food along with worms were used for props, and all others used were strikingly lifelike as well. Costumes, despite some inconsistencies with the time period, were creative, and there was a good distinction between the townspeople and those who had come from the city.
The topic of a man’s right to think is still relevant to our day and time, and West Potomac, despite struggling at points, succeeded in preserving and translating the message of their play to the audience. Their production of Inherit the Wind, with stand-out actors and striking tech, was a truly satisfactory and thoughtful show.
by Emma Paquette of McLean High School
photos by Nikolai Roster
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