Review by Lauryn Angel
You may have read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for a high school English class. Or maybe you’ve watched the movie, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. However you came to it, the story of Southern lawyer Atticus Finch defending Tom Robinson, a Black man wrongly-accused of raping a white woman, is considered a classic of American literature – and it’s been banned and challenged many times. Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of the novel for the stage reminds us that the themes of the novel are just as relevant today as when the novel was originally published.
The story takes place in Maycomb, Alabama, just 70 years after the Civil War, as Scout (Melanie Moore) proclaims in one scene, reminiscent of those who proclaim we live in a post-racial America today. Atticus (Richard Thomas) responds that every time their neighbors (and other Southerners) see a free Black person, it reminds them they were defeated in the Civil War. Atticus isn’t just educating the children, here; he’s also addressing the audience, for history repeats itself, and there are still Civil War monuments throughout the Southern states. The action of the play may occur in 1934, but the themes are still very relevant in 2023.
Richard Thomas is an excellent Atticus Finch, giving the role gravitas in the courtroom scenes and balancing it with the humor and exasperation needed for parenting Scout and Jem Finch.
To Kill a Mockingbird may be the best theatrical production I’ve seen in quite some time, but I still came away a little dissatisfied. The storyline of Boo Radley gets sidelined here, with the character seemingly only included because of his part in the story’s resolution. Of course, the show is already almost three hours long, so I’m not sure where the scenes needed to develop this character would fit.
To Kill a Mockingbird runs through May 28 at the Music Hall at Fair Park.