Miss Maudie Carrie Snodgress
Miss Maudie Carrie SnodgressMiss Stephanie Zelda Rubinstein Jem Finch John Graas Scout Finch Alex McKenna Walter Cunningham Joseph Cardinale Atticus Finch Bruce Davison Calpurnia Edwina Moore Mrs. Dubose Pat Atkins Dill Jeremy Lelliott Judge Taylor Joseph Cardinale Heck Tate Matthew Kimbrough Bob Ewell Michael McCarty Reverend Sykes Alvin Walker Mr. Gilmer Tuck Milligan Mayella Ewell Lisa Pelikan Tom Robinson Haven Mitchell Boo Radley Tony Pierce Townspeople … George Harrison Jack Robertson Dixon Troyer Director Jules Aaron assembles the right ingredients for the West Coast preem of a new dramatization of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but he never quite stirs properly. Play is more of a showcase for Bruce Davison in the Gregory Peck role than a probing drama. While Davison delivers a sturdy, if uninspired performance, he can’t save the production and the text from its soporific pall. The adaptation by Christopher Sergel immediately faces an uphill battle in comparisons to the film: Peck all but defined the role of attorney Atticus Finch. But more problematic is the piece’s focus shift in transition from book to film to stage. Plot is still about Finch’s legal defense of a poor black farmhand who is accused of raping a white woman in the Depression-era South. While the book and film told the story through the eyes of Finch’s ever-curious children, Jem (John Graas) and Scout (Alex McKenna), Sergel concocts a narrator in Miss Maudie, Finch’s neighbor (Carrie Snodgress). The device creates a fable-like quality to the story, which accentuates the dark side of the folksy town. The children get lost in the shuffle. Aaron misses the dramatic markwith the staging of much of the play. The piece’s climactic scene — when a lynch mob attacks the jail and Scout defuses the situation — is so awkwardly staged it borders on comic. The courtroom segments are equally baffling, partially due to John Iacovelli’s sets. He leaves the houses from previous scenes onstage during the courtroom moments. Intimations of the incestuous relationship between the town and its judicial system are unnecessary. Davison turns in a fine, measured perf as Finch, vainly fighting to gain control of a runaway situation. McKenna shows considerable aplomb for a child stage actor. She never falters in her emotion or her confusion at the town’s muddleheaded behavior. Snodgress, Zelda Rubinstein and Pat Atkins are comical as meddling neighbors. Haven Mitchell as Tom Robinson, the black farmhand, is perhaps most watchable. His large, lumbering presence immediately grabbed focus during the courtroom scenes. And Lisa Pelikan screeched with reckless abandon as the injured Mayella Ewell, coyly making an unsympathetic role intriguing. Aaron has found himself a band of capable actors. Too bad the text and the staging couldn’t serve them.
To Kill a Mockingbird
(La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, La Mirada; 1,264 seats; $ 32 top)
A McCoy/Rigby Entertainment production of a play in two acts dramatized by Christopher Sergel, based on the novel by Harper Lee; exec producers, Tom McCoy, Cathy Rigby; director, Jules Aaron.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more