Liz on Theatre

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

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SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing” among other notable works) and starring Jeff Daniels.

In the Summit production, Mike King gives an understated, nuanced performance as Atticus Finch. His observations ring true as he shows through his own actions how his children should view the world.  His comments to the jury about the court of law and justice have a clarity much needed today. Karen Thornton plays his adult daughter, Jean Louis Finch, and serves as narrator in this reminiscence of her childhood.

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Rose Gaeta is the tomboy, Scout, impetuous and outspoken. Her brother Hem is played by Cyrus Shields, who has his own concerns and misgivings about his father’s defense of the Negro, Tom Robinson (Josh Musgrave.) Their friend Dill Harris is played by Logan Guvenel.  All the children project beautifully, which doesn’t always happen with young, high pitched voices. And Tasha R. Williams as their housekeeper Calpurnia does her best to keep order among the youngsters.

Chip Prestera as Bob Ewell is incredibly convincing as the nasty parent to Mayella, who has accused Robinson of raping her. Sarah Pharaon captures the confusion and resentment of this young woman who we can see has led a lonely, desperate life despite her search for excitement. Musgrave as Robinson effectively projects the fear and humility in his precarious position.  

Joelle Bochner’s Miss Maudie sets the children straight when they start to question what’s going on with the trial. Hank Barre is Judge Taylor who does his best to impose order and an impartial presence in the courtroom. Bob Loucks as the state’s attorney, Horace Gilmer, clearly demonstrates the biases so prevalent at the time. The mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley is played by Steve Gabe and his presence is integral to a frightening Halloween experience for the children. All the actors, in fact, are thoroughly engaged and totally committed to being residents of Maycomb, Alabama, in 1935.  

Costume design by Ann Lowe and Beverly Wand reflect the depression era period and the set design by Kevern Cameron and Roy Pancirov ingeniously converts the proscenium stage from outdoor scenes of houses to the courtroom.

Kevern Cameron has astutely directed this play, dramatized by Christopher Sergel.  Performances run through May 20 at The Summit Playhouse, 10 New England Avenue in Summit.  For tickets, call 908-273-2192 or visit TheSummitPlayhouse.org.

Liz Keill reviews professional theatre in the New Jersey area, ranging from the McCarter Theatre in Princeton to Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn. In addition to writing for Tapinto.net, she does theatre analysis for HometowneTV in Summit. She holds a Bachelor's in Journalism from Penn State and a Master's in Communication from Syracuse University. Liz is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, which holds seminars at regional theatres across the country as well as in New York City.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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