Fauquier Community Theatre To Kill a MockingbirdBy Adam Sylvain • Jan 19th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Fauquier Community Theatre Info Web
Fauquier Community Theatre, Warrenton, VA
Through February 3rd
2:15 with one intermission
$15 Adults/$13 Seniors, Students
Reviewed January 18th, 2013
Over the last fifty years, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, has endeared itself to the hearts of many for its deft portrayal of racial tensions in the rural south, and for the virtue of its characters, namely the “color-blind” lawyer, Atticus Finch. Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of the novel retells the story of the Finch’s, an Alabama family somewhat ostracized for their involvement in the trial of an accused black man, Tom Robinson. Told mostly through the experiences of the two Finch children, Jem and Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird inspires its audience to reflect on racial injustices of the past, and to cast away pride in pursuit of what is right and just.
Located west of the beltway in Fauquier County, Fauquier Community Theatre enters its 35th season in 2012-2013. Since the mid-1990’s, FCT shows have been held at Vint Hill Theater in Warrenton, VA, formerly a movie theatre for the now defunct Army base. The converted space is a charming venue to see a production and a reminder of the unique locality of community theater. To Kill a Mockingbird marks the third of five shows in its current season.
Although several cast members are children, the program cautions some of the language and themes in To Kill a Mockingbird might be too mature for a younger audience. The warning is issued mostly because of the character’s use of racial slurs, also present in the book. The plot also centers around the framed accusation of a black man accused of raping a white woman of Macomb’s lower-class. While the play promises enjoyment for its adult audience, especially those familiar with Lee’s acclaimed novel, I echo the cautionary sentiments and advise leaving the kids at home.
The play begins with an introduction to Macomb, Alabama, a rural Alabama town rife with Depression-era poverty, neighborhood gossip, and racial division. We are first introduced to “Miss Maudie” Atkinson, played by Teena Stevic in this production. Stevic mostly succeeds in depicting her role as the Finch’s friendly neighbor, who frequently expresses sympathy for the Finch’s, especially the often derided, Atticus Finch. Perhaps the only pitfall to Stevic’s portrayal of the character is her southern accent, which can sound contrived at times.
We then meet Scout, her role captured by Maria Luetkemeyer. Although Scout’s character is written as six-years-old when the play begins, Luetkemeyer is noticeably older than the play prescribes. The older casting blurs the relationship slightly between Scout and Jem, played by Michael D’Arcangelis. Jem is supposed to be four years older than his sister. This discrepancy is lessened by Luetkemeyer’s success in portraying Scout’s naïvety and zealous curiosity. Scout’s tomboy personality appropriately supposes a desire to be included and accepted by Jem, a character who maintains boyish interests in football, guns, and throwing rocks at the weather-beaten home of the fabled Boo Radley.
The play’s two stars, in my opinion, were Jim Constable and Evan Jones, playing the roles of Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell, respectively.
Constable, who takes up the role of Atticus Finch after a 30-year hiatus from theater, skillfully portrayed Finch’s admirable character, typified by his fearless defense of Tom Robinson, whose innocence he fights to protect despite popular opposition and threats to his life. With equal adroitness, Constable shows Atticus’ extreme humility and portrays the more subtle virtues in Finch’s character, such as the loving patience he shows his children, who, for superficial reasons, under-appreciate their father throughout much of the play.
Playing the villain and Tom Robinson’s accuser, Evan Jones represents the very picture of Bob Ewell’s character I had in my head while reading the book. His comfort with the role is most noticeable in the courtroom scenes where Ewell’s petulant defiance manifests repeatedly through a series of grumbled outbursts aimed at Atticus Finch, who remains bent on exposing Ewell as a shamed liar, and drunken abuser.
Great casting is aided by talented costume design, led by Susan Noé. Likely drawing some inspiration from the acclaimed 1962 film version of the play, Ewell is dressed in baggy denim overalls and a plaid shirt, a costume appropriately matching the character’s rough-and-tumble persona. Atticus dons a respectable courtroom suit throughout the play and Jem’s mud-splattered jeans foretell his character’s hijinks. Others will enjoy the recognizably southern-style dresses worn by Maudie and Miss Stephanie, the neighborhood gossip girl.
The relatively simple and open set design proved effective when transitioning from the Finch’s neighborhood street to the courtroom scenes. The courtroom is smartly arranged so the off-stage audience sits in position of the courtroom jury, with Atticus and the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Gilmer, played by Martin Gacioppo, directing their comments to a complicit audience.
The appearance of a weather-beaten door and poorly maintained shrubbery outside the Radley house, home of an intriguing recluse who makes one pivotal appearance in the play, creates some–not all–of the mystique familiar in the novel. Window planters, and well juxtaposed color on the homes of the Finch neighbors bring warmth to the set and strengthen the impression you are looking out at a familiar scene in the middle-class, southern neighborhood.
Any lover of Harper Lee’s story, heralded as a quintessential American novel and taught in classrooms nationwide, will enjoy this production. Those less familiar with the novel will still enjoy superb individual acting and an inviting set that bring to life a remarkable tale, lauded for its humanism and high morals.
Photos provided by Fauquier Community Theatre
Disclaimer: Fauquier Community Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9015.
Adam Sylvain is a high school teacher and freelance writer in Northern Virginia. When not occupying a classroom, or meeting a deadline, he enjoys experiencing live theater, getting outdoors, and smoking an occasional tobacco pipe filled with rum tobacco.