Shock & Awe certainly describes “Avenue Q” at the Pollard Theatre in Guthrie. Ending the season called ‘Choices’ with a controversial hit always gives the public a sock in the ‘shockal pleasus’ and “Avenue Q” is no exception. “Avenue Q” is based on an original concept by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx who are also responsible for the Music and Lyrics. The book by Jeff Whitty gives the clarification the creators need as the set up for the show is very confusing on the surface. On the stage, however, there is no confusion, particularly in the hands of the competent and brilliant director, W. Jerome Stevenson.
“Avenue Q” has been called a cross between South Park and Sesame Street. The actors carry puppets, although the actors are not hidden, so this is not a puppet show. The puppets were originally conceived and designed by Rick Lyon and created by Dallas Costume Shop. The puppets (some of whom are monsters similar to Cookie Monster and others) recall our childhood adoration of Sesame Street. However, “Avenue Q” has not been authorized or approved by the Jim Henson Company or Sesame Workshop which have no responsibility for content. That does not necessarily mean that Jim Henson is not smiling somewhere.
To enact the story, the actors are wearing black and carrying the puppets with them. Their faces and thus expressions are visible to the audience. Some of the roles are double cast, and so, occasionally an actor will manipulate a puppet where another actor is speaking the lines as he manipulates a different puppet and delivers those lines in character. A daunting task for Stevenson to clarify on stage and he does so with a remarkable cast of musical theatre genius.
The story line is universal. The difficulties young people encounter as they first step out in the world with their academic and parental ties essentially severed are told in “Avenue Q” with a very modern and somewhat disarmingly offensive take. They are finding their way in the world, and losing their way in life.
The characters are portrayed and operated by a cast of 7 actors and 2 ensemble operators. Three of the characters do not use puppets, although they interact naturally with them. Brian who dreams of a comedic career is played marvelously by Doug Ford. His lady, Christmas Eve, a social psychologist in need of establishing a good client base, is played outstandingly by Cristela Carrizales. The superintendent is Gary Coleman, the former child star and is played by JaLeesa Beavers. Beavers does not try to be Coleman, thusly, she is Coleman. These three are tremendous singers and actors and have excellent rapport with the puppet characters, each other and the audience.
The puppeteer/actors are Lane Fields as Princeton and Rod, Gwendolyn Evans as Kate Monster, Lucy & others, Jared Blount as Nicky, Trekkie Monster, Bear & others and Crystal Ecker as Mrs. T., Bear & others. Joshua McGowen and Timothy Stewart round out the ensemble puppeteer cast as assistant manipulators. Fields and Evans are excitingly talented in the musicality and action, while Blount and Ecker reflect excellence in supporting roles. Stewart is also Properties Master and Blount is also responsible for the great Video Animation Design.
As an example of excellence, Evans’ moment of shared triumph in acting occurs when she is onstage as Lucy, manipulating that puppet, while Kate Monster is also on stage. Evans voices both characters, but Ecker is manipulating Kate for the scene. Because the puppet actors faces are revealed one could see the face of Ecker as Lucy. Crystal Ecker and Gwendolyn Evans are both exceptionally talented brunette actresses. However they are quite different in appearance and could normally not be mistaken for one another. Yet, in those moments, Ecker looks exactly like the character of Kate. Incredible! Similarly difficult achievements are effortlessly performed by Fields and Blount.
Musical Director Todd S. Malicoate conducts an excellent band which dovetails nicely with Stephenson’s direction and concepts. There is not space enough to list each musicians name, but they perform beautifully as a unit in accompaniment to the excellent voices resounding through the theatre.
The show can be considered offensive to some. Young people starting out often behave in a manner which is offensive, because they find that offending seems to make their point. In some cases, offensive material can dilute the point, and some members of the audience seem to feel that way, however, every audience member can only be astounded by the musicality and tremendous acting these roles require. Interestingly, the division is not generational, it is according to personal temperament.
Patrons should arrive prepared for possible ‘offense’ and able to appreciate the performance as it stands. Those who feel unequal to witnessing explicit scenes between puppets should stay away, however, “Avenue Q” never descends to the level of daytime television, so, think carefully before aligning with a specific group. Well, of course, there is that one scene, that superbly executed scene, that appallingly delightful scene that one should never see in the presence of their mother.
Buy mom flowers, but take your date to “Avenue Q” showing through May 18, 2013 at the Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie. The curtain rises at 8pm so visit www.thepollard.org for tickets or contact the box office at 405-282-2800. No regrets with this shock and awe production of “Avenue Q” at the Pollard!
Some of OKC’s best popular acting talent has come together to present “Southern Baptist Sissies” by Del Shores, best known for his play “Sordid Lives.” The dinner theatre production at The Boom in Oklahoma City, directed by Kenneth Benton, plays to sympathetic houses.
Shores’s play examines the self-hatred experienced by four gay men growing up in a Southern Baptist congregation in Dallas. The harsh critique of southern church traditions is focused on the kind of preaching that damages gay boys and men. This production is timely; not only was it recently revived in New York, but articles in HuffPost Religion have dealt with the question of whether certain forms of preaching are also forms of bullying.
The audiences at The Boom experience an environment where couples of any combination of genders can hold hands and interact comfortably. The audience is composed equally of those who can see how the show exposes the suffering of gay men raised in conservative congregations and those who can see the show as a reflection of their own lived experiences. Because the performance venue is in a bar, the audience is restricted to those over 21. This is just as well, since there is graphic sexual language, some nudity, and Sean Eckart as a delightfully active male stripper. Be prepared to have your assumptions about growing up gay in church, especially in the south, challenged or affirmed…or both.
In the narrative and coordinating role of the angry cynic Mark, Scotty Taylor ably carried much of the show. Jason McKelvy was strongly effective as TJ, a gay Christian holding on to denial with his fingernails. Doug Rankin was stunning as Benny, the lip-synching drag queen living in a (mostly) satisfying fantasy. Kaleb Bruza was movingly brilliant as the conflicted and fragile Andrew.
These four boys, whom we follow from pre-pubescence to adulthood, are influenced by the Preacher, rendered with pompous sincerity by Paul James, and their Mothers, who are all played distinctly by Courtney Hahne. Punctuating the events in the lives of the boys are the conversations of the two barflies, Odette and Peanut, rendered with richly alcoholic pathos by Lilli Bassett and Robert Matson. Eventually all of these lives intersect, with inevitably damaging results.
The second half of the play predictably manipulates the sympathies of the audience, and the ending can only feel contrived. Shores is apparently unwilling to hold on to the tough, ugly parts of life or to let us live with unresolved grief. The desperate effort to reach for hope out of misery at the end of the play is poorly structured and inevitably falls short, despite a herculean effort by the director and his able cast to keep it real and make it live.
For many, this flaw will not matter: those affected by the reality of abusive theology need the hope this production offers. The show offers clear insights into how traditional Christianity is experienced by gay boys and men; families may want to see the show for a deeper understanding of the gay men in their lives.
The technical limitations of the stage are used very effectively. Dark areas allow for simulated sex acts to seem both real and furtive—highlighting the shame that drives much of the action. At times the sound score overpowers the preacher, which makes following his sermons difficult.
“Southern Baptist Sissies” is running Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. through April 27 at The Boom, 2218 NW 39th Street, Oklahoma City. Tickets are $15 and can be reserved at www.tarsplace.com or purchased at the door. No one under 21 can be admitted to the performance venue.
In today’s complicated world it is great fun to step back in time to the complications of another era. Melodrama. Heightened Emotion. A very nasty villain. A beautiful damsel in distress. A not very bright hero. These are the essential ingredients of melodrama. So Jewel Box Theatre presents “Dirty Work On The Trail, Or, Go Slow with the Pony Express” by Robert Swift. The program presents us with a Remarkable Aggregation of Illustrious Actors In The Spectacular Dime Novel Drama. The Jewel Box Theatre is staging the extravaganza through May 5, 2013 and they are doing so with all the aplomb and certainty one expected in the 19th century. It comes as no surprise that we have not outgrown the lure of the melodrama which enables us to entertain emotions in the raw form that release often requires. The more sophisticated audience of today, however, is also drawn to the humor ingrained in the melodrama on a far more subtle level.
To accomplish this Jewel Box has drawn on the talents of Jay Prock who, in addition to designing the action of the drama has designed, painted and executed elegant and lavish scenic effects. Mendy Kane keeps the whole kit n’ caboodle under some semblance of control and choreographers Morgan Smith and Derek Flowers give the whole thing the out of control appearance that is so exciting. Exceptional costumes by Christopher Sieker and props by Julie Prock bring the action to life.
The play takes place during the days of the Pony Express and the place in the old west is the relay station in Carson City Nevada. The resplendent activities are revealed by the ‘illustrious’ actors beginning with Carol McDonald as the Widow Mentary, the wheezy proprietress of the relay station, and her lovely but talentless daughter, Ella Mentary, played by Rachel Conn. Ella Mentary may not be talented and it takes a great deal of poise as well as talent from Conn to make her so real and amusing. McDonald leaves us unsure about whether her cough stems from the dust created by the galloping riders or the spirits she serves and does so entertaingly. Christine Harris is delightfully devious as Felicia Da Flea, a human Venus fly-trap. Harris vamps with the greats of yesterday from Langtree to Bernhardt. Marisa Skube as Melba Loveless is the perfect example of a woman scorned. Alex Prather is the young cowboy and potential Pony express rider called Ned Sterling playing the perfect lovelorn bumblehead anxious to win his love by impressing her with his inconsiderate skills.
And the Villain? For the excess in dirty deeds, director Prock had to look no further than David Palmer to play the clever cad, Pugsley MoonQuake with the twirling moustaches. It is amazing how an actor can give the illusion of twirling his moustache when he has both hands in the till! Dana Palmer is the wealthy, husband hunting Astabula Hugankiss, and her delectable performance is exquisitely funny. Jennie Linck is Annie, her servant, and she is the only one who seems to know what is going on! Kyle Anderson as the stagecoach driver Foghorn Redburn is wonderful as he takes no sass, but keeps everyone in line (he thinks) and sets up the action for the audience. Larry Harris is Pony Bill and Pony Bob, David Burkhart is Calamity Joan, Katie Hardin is Paloma Palomino and Morgan Smith, Bailey Smith and Stuart Brand round out the cast.
The show is hysterical and the actors deserve no rotten tomatoes! “Dirty Work on the Trail Or, Go Slow With the Pony Express” is but the first act! The second act consists of the Olio Acts, a Musical and Comedy Revue that is heady and entertaining. The players consist of the entire cast with many additional supernumeraries that space does not allow mentioning in person. It becomes apparent in this act that Ella Mentary may not be able to sing but Rachel Conn certainly carries a tune as does everyone else. There are no single stars in this ensemble cast, but there is a galaxy of laughs in this melodrama and variety show.
Come one, come all, and no one needs to stop for any ‘elixer’ to enjoy this sort of thing (if you like this sort of thing) because, if you don’t, you will! “Dirty Work on the Trail Or, Go Slow With the Pony Express” plays through May 5, 2013 with an 8pm curtain Thursday through Saturday and a Sunday 2:30pm matinee. For tickets ring up the box office at 405-521-1786 or, if the bad guys have cut the wires, go wireless at www.jewelbox.org. The Jewel Box is located in the First Christian Church, 3700 N. Walker in Oklahoma City.
For the past several years the Oklahoma City Theatre Company has been hosting the Native American New Play Festival. This year’s production is “Chalk in the Rain” by playwright and novelist Bret Jones. The Festival provides opportunities specifically for Native American writers, directors and actors and is a very important part of the creative process. Often, a new play needs to be seen and heard before the final adjustments are made, as Broadway success stories often open first in Connecticut.
“Chalk in the Rain” is a heart-wrenching although not heart-warming story about a young Native American woman who returns to the school and orphanage where she made her home as a teen. Four years later, as a successful broadcast journalist, she is helping out the school by hosting a radio-thon fundraiser to keep the school open. As she arrives, she is bombarded by the memories of her time as a student, her warm relationship with the headmistress, her best friend and her first love. The story is universal, it is not a happy memory, and the tragedy manifests through a series of flashbacks.
“Chalk in the Rain” is authored by Bret Jones and is one of many plays and novels by the author. Jones is Director of Theatre at Wichita State University. He has a M.A. in Drama and a PH.D. In Education from the University of Oklahoma. Jones has submitted from the first Native American New Play Festival since its inception in 2010, and was a finalist with “War Paint”. In 2011, Jones again became a finalist with “An Inside Strait” and last year, “Chalk in the Rain” was part of the staged readings segment of the Festival. “War Paint” and “Kindred” have won the Garrard Playwriting Award sponsored by The Five Civilized Tribes Museum,
Carly Conklin directs “Chalk in the Rain” and takes excellent advantage of the space available at City Space. Conklin has many directing credits, but debuts her talent as a director with this production. Paul Mitchell is Stage Manager and Assistant Director enhancing Conklin’s abilities.
The cast consists of several Native Americans with significant theatrical experience. Rachel Morgan plays Melea Tiger, the young journalist returning to assist her alma mater. She is making her debut for OKCTC and will be a featured player in future productions.
Misty Red Elk plays Ms. Sandra Hayes the kindly, but somewhat overwhelmed headmistress. Her performance is slightly too hesitant, but the script for “Chalk in the Rain” demands hesitancy. Jeremy Tanequodle is Colin Fowler, the young man who broke the heart of Melea, and continues to break her heart as he attends her interviews for the upcoming broadcast. Tiffane Shorter is Angelina Bible, the only cast member appearing solely in Melea Tiger’s flashbacks. Her performance is strong enough for her presence to be felt significantly in the present by the other characters, and of course, the audience.
“Chalk in the Rain” plays through April 20, 2013, and this weekend will include the performance of “Sparrow” a commemoration of the Oklahoma bombing by Vicki Lynn Mooney. Tiffany Tuggle Rogers will perform. Additionally the Festival will present several staged readings from other submissions this weekend and promises to be a very interesting and entertaining event for Oklahomans learning more about the culture that shapes our state.
For information and tickets about “Chalk in the Rain” or “Sparrow” as well as any other events visit www.okctc.org or call 405-297-2264 which is the number for the Civic Center Box Office. City Space is a small space so be sure and reserve tickets. The Civic Center Music Hall is located in downtown Oklahoma City, and parking is available in several locations. The City Space Theatre is on the lower level.
“My Name is Asher Lev” first an excellent novel by acclaimed author Chaim Potok and now also a play adaptation from playwright Aaron Posner is being produced through April 27, 2013 at Carpenter Square Theatre. Director Rhonda Clark brings an innate understanding of artistic integrity and conflict to the cast of three superior actors.
The story is centered on a highly talented young artist in Brooklyn. The parents of Asher Lev are loving Hasidic Jewish parents, but religion and art can conflict. Asher Lev’s struggle to overcome his natural reticence and rebel against the beliefs of his parents is profound. But his success at maintaining his personal faith and moral position without fear makes the play engaging to any audience.
Clark brings an excellent cast to the production. Craig Musser, a graduating senior from OU’s prestigious School of Drama is making his Carpenter Square Theatre debut as Asher Lev and his performance is fresh and remarkably good. The role of his father, Aryeh Lev is taken by Ben Hall who creates a heartwarming character for the father. Also, Hall portrays Yitchok Lev with a definitive yet subtle difference. The multiple roles also include The Rebbe and Jacob Kahn. Hall is brilliant in each role and brings a separate distinction in each character with only a slight assist in costume. TooToo Cirlot also has multiple roles, that of Asher Lev’s mother, Rivkeh Lev, Anna Schaeffer and Rachel. Her performances are equally diverse in character development. The program confirms what the eyes cannot quite fathom: there are only three cast members in this play!
Clark’s thoughtful set design enhances the production and with the assistance of James Polk Wilson with set and lighting, A’Mari Jo Rocheleau as Stage Manager and Jaefinn Carr as Production Assistant, “My Name is Asher Lev” is an excellent production that should not be missed. Carpenter Square Theatre has been producing wonderful theatre in Oklahoma City since being founded over 30 years ago, and this production is a perfect example of why Carpenter Square is such a success in the community. The contributions of these actors in this production illustrate an important contribution to central Oklahoma in culture as well as entertainment.
Gracing the lobby for Carpenter Square is artist Okal Silver. Her work is multi-media abstraction and is sold through MtnWoman Silver Studio. The work is excellent and sets a mood for a play about an artist beautifully.
“My Name is Asher Lev” can be seen at Carpenter Square Theatre located at 800 W. Main in downtown Oklahoma City and runs through April 27. Contact the box office at 405-232-6500 for tickets or check on line at www.carpentersquare.com. This is one show that will entertain, educate and delight all audiences.
African Americans have made great strides in the struggle to gain equality and respect within their communities and they can be very proud of their achievements today. Yet, the work is not complete and the attitudes of the mid-twentieth century can still shape the experiences faced today. In “Fences” the Pulitzer Prize winning play by August Wilson, the obstacles of this time are visible with heart wrenching clarity. “Fences” takes place over several years beginning in 1957 and traces the life of Troy Maxson, a man conflicted about his inability to overcome the obstacles of his youth and certain that his children cannot. The play has an obvious lesson for the period but rough terrain remains in the present. Within the text of “Fences” subtle lessons that still must be learned are visible and extremely important.
The Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church undertakes to present “Fences” through April 28, 2013. Tinasha LaRaye is the vibrant young director who has assembled a terrific cast of talented actors to bring to life the characters in the Maxson circle of family and friends. Brian C. Scott is Troy Maxson and his performance is powerful in his anguish. Janice Francis Smith is wife Rose, and her interpretation is soft and lovely, yet sometimes hard to hear. Robert Jamerson is teenage son Cory and he delineates the difference between what he must first overcome—his father—and what his father could not overcome distinctively. KJ Rhodes as the eldest son Lyons, has an even more difficult task in developing the slight distinctions he faces and he carries his role with great aplomb. J. Lamont Thomas is family friend Jim Bono, and his role is portrayed with great sensitivity. Josiah Overstreet plays Gabriel, Troy Maxsons brother, disabled and confused from war injuries, yet with a wisdom all his own. Maya Banks is delightful as the young daughter, Raynell.
Every single actor in this production displays flashes of brilliance that reach out to grab the audience and shake them from their complacency. Unfortunately the characters do not mesh together well leaving gaps in the seams and gaping rents in the scenes. After the first weekend of performance the gaps should mend naturally. The hope in “Fences” should not be lost and with a little work on the flow, the play will have a great deal more relevancy.
The sets are, as usual for Poteet, delightful and the technical presentation is flawless. LaRaye shows great potential as a director, and each and every actor in this production creates wonderful, if separate characters.
The Poteet Theatre is located on the lower level of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City. “Fences” can be seen through April 28th and the curtain rises at 8pm Thursday through Saturday evenings with a Sunday 3pm matinee. For ticket information visit www.poteettheatre.com or call 405-609-1023.
Looking back on the good old days is a favorite pastime of every generation at critical points in life and the good old days always reflect a time of learning and discovery. The youthful period of discovery is not always carried throughout a lifetime, unless, of course, one indulges in theatre. Theatre students continue to grow in life as well as theatre and enhance many careers. Those who excel within the craft are blessed with talent and no fear of sweat. Oklahoma City University has been a hotbed of talent in this excellent discipline for the past 90 years. In that near century many from those hallowed halls have walked the paths of success within the craft and now The Oklahoma City University School of Theatre chooses to honor those students. They do so by bringing to life for the fifth time in these 90 years Oscar Wilde’s delightful “The Importance of Being Earnest” recalling cherished memories. Further, “The Importance of Being Earnest” is three-prong collaboration with City-Rep Theatre of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. All three theatrical entities are packed with OKCU graduates.
The event will take place at Oklahoma City University in the Burg Theatre and opening night is the evening of April 5, 2013. The initial five inductees for The Wall of Honor including legends and friends will take place at a banquet preceding the show. Inductees include the delightful Lakshmi Manchu, a native of India, and OCU graduate who has made a big impression in such programs as Las Vegas and Desperate Housewives and Chip Ulrich a technical expert in lighting whose position with Schuler-Shook is renowned. Cathy O’Donnell, whose contributions in movies is profound (remember the beautiful Barbara Waggoman who captured Jimmy Stewart’s heart in “The Man from Laramie”) is unfortunately a posthumous award. Jonathan Beck Reed whose nationwide theatrical triumphs are legendary will be inducted as well as Donald Jordan, Artistic Director for City-Rep Theatre here in Oklahoma City. Jordan and Reed have worked together on numerous productions over the years and their contribution to OKC Theatre is a credit to our city.
Now, on to the show! “The Importance of Being Earnest” is a great pooling of talent with OKCU Artistic Director, D. Lance Marsh directing an incomparable cast. Donald Jordan, Artistic Director of City-Rep is functioning as Artistic Director for the production and Kathryn McGill, Artistic Director for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park portrays Miss Prism. However, the decisions all fall on Marsh and he begins with a superb cast list: Andi Dema portrays John Worthing, Hunter Paul plays Algernon Moncrief and the incredible Michael Jones is Lady Bracknell. Other cast members include Dwight Sandell, James Tyler Kirk, Brett Garrett, Renee Lawrence and Lauren Thompson. Also Kathryn McGill, Alexis Graves and Taylor Weinhold grace the list of exceptional actors Marsh has chosen. This cast includes Equity actors as well as sweat equity performers and a few future honorees for the Wall of Honor to come.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” is a favorite OCU Theatre production, and a favorite of Oscar Wilde fans, and who isn’t? The show reflects a time period in the past, but the humor is relevant and contemporary and is put together by a group of talented folks who are unable to miss the mark. For ticket information contact the Oklahoma City University Box Office at 405-208-5227 and the Burg Theatre is at the OKCU campus on Blackwelder just north of Pennsylvania Avenue. This is not one to miss! Earnestly!
Robin Roberts is an accomplished playwright and can be found in Franklin, Indiana where he is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Franklin College. The farce “Dilemmas with Dinner” is a great example of a comedic dream for the actors, and Don Taylor directs this dream with great timing. Jewel Box Theatre is presenting “Dilemmas with Dinner” through March 24, 2013 and the cast of eight bring tears of mirth to audience eyes.
The action takes place in the home of Donny and Brooke Williams. Donny owns a small book store and Brooke is working for a company that has an opening for a vice president. Brooke has invited the boss and his wife over for dinner to butter them up a little bit so that she may be considered for the position she has earned. For the dinner to be perfect her friend and assistant at work, Julia and Julia’s boyfriend round out the guest list. Brooke has hired a caterer to cook and serve the dinner expecting Caren the caterer to be helpful. Donny has been followed home by a recently fired employee who also tries to be helpful in hopes of having his job at the bookstore restored.
Brooke Williams is delightfully played by Christine Jolly. Tad Thurston is wonderful as Donny Williams. Tiffany Tuggle-Rogers as the harried caterer is very funny and Dalton Thomas as Max, Donny’s former assistant, is poignantly amusing. Allyson Rose as friend Julia is amusing and Clint Kubat as her boyfriend Stephen is the observant calm one maintaining his cool amidst the chaos.
Much of the first act in a farce involves the set up and “Dilemmas with Dinner” really gets going in the second act when the boss and his wife arrive at the Williams home for dinner. Will is portrayed by James Tyra with a bit of deadpan humor that is insanely funny and Jackie Smola as Louise very nearly steals the show. Smola is hysterically funny and so natural that she is believable. Furthermore, in the coming together that takes place in the second act when everything is falling apart all of the actors exhibit the perfect timing and reaction that makes “Dilemmas with Dinner” a perfect evening of comedy at the theatre.
Don Taylor has certainly done an excellent job of staging for the Jewel Box Theatre space. The set is beautiful and the actors all make excellent use of their surroundings. The first row of seating at the Jewel Box is a little too close for audience members to appreciate the panoramic nuances in the action. Just one tier of elevation gives room to capture some of those great little moments these actors present.
This production is the Oklahoma premiere of “Dilemmas with Dinner” and thanks to the Jewel Box for bringing this hilarious farce to the attention of Oklahomans who always appreciate a good laugh. “Dilemmas with Dinner” plays through March 24, 2013 at the Jewel Box which is located in the First Christian Church, 3700 N. Walker. For ticket information contact the box office at 405-521-1786 or visit www.jewelboxtheatre.org and don’t miss a great evening of highly comic farce!
Harper Lee’s beloved novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” plays well at The Pollard Theatre. Christopher Sergel’s dramatization uses Jean Louise Finch to narrate her childhood experiences as Scout, the irrepressible daughter of small town lawyer Atticus Finch. The action takes place during a controversial trial that has polarized the small southern town of Maycomb, Alabama during the depression.
As narrator, Jean Louse Finch is played by Gwendolyn Evans while her younger self is Alexandria Grable. These two look and play very naturally as each other conquering beautifully the hesitancy some directors may have in using this version of the play. Director W. Jerome Stevenson incorporates the characters with great sensitivity and Grable and Evans are excellent examples.
Atticus Finch is performed by James A. Hughes, a familiar face to Pollard audiences in an unfamiliar role. These three lead the rest of the cast through the story effortlessly. Exciting smaller roles are delightfully carried by David Fletcher-Hall as Bob Ewell and Emily Frances Brown as Mayella Ewell. Fletcher-Hall’s interpretation beautifully illustrates the jealousy that accompanies prejudice and ignorance. Brown reveals the cost of that ignorance and isolation as she demonstrates the damage her father has done to his family in her performance.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has some great roles for women, and Stevenson cast great women in those roles. De’Vin Lewis as Calpurnia is lovely, Beverly Caviness as Maudie Atkinson with Cory King as Stephanie Crawford and Jennifer Rosson as Mrs. Dubose create the typical small town power base that women often hold with wit and sincerity.
Tom Robinson, defendant and victim of racial discrimination is beautifully played by Rory Littleton. The poignancy of his position is revealed in his demeanor as much as his delivery. Ben Bates as Reverend Sykes, ministering to the needs of the black community is wise as well as comforting. Lane Fields plays the small town southern Sheriff, Heck Tate, as a man who brings a high moral standard to his position. Clayton Blair as ‘Boo’ Radley is distinctive in his presentation.
Grable leads the other children in the production to great heights. Matt Maloy is brother Jem and his performance is sensitive and secure. Harry Simpson plays Dill, the young scamp visiting and longing for acceptance. Simpson has great timing, a skill not often revealed in such a young actor.
The ability to project is specifically appreciated in the performance of Harry Simpson as Dill and David Fletcher-Hall as Bob Ewell. The audience has a difficult time hearing the dialogue of the other actors due to a combination of dialect and speed as well as low audio. They will be better understood as they slow down for upcoming performances and hopefully their microphones will be tuned a notch higher. But good projection is always the best answer, and young Simpson particularly should be congratulated for his ability. Some viewers may quarrel with Stevenson’s interpretation as Hughes plays Atticus Finch with an air of regret and martyrdom that those who love this story will find uncomfortable or disappointing.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” presented by Jeff & Carol Hirzel plays at The Pollard Theatre in downtown Guthrie through March 16, 2013. The Pollard is located at 120 W. Harrison and the curtain comes up at 8:00pm with Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Tickets can be purchased online at www.thepollard.org or call 405-282-2800