‘Art of a Cow­boy’

Jewel Box The­atre kicked off its 60th sea­son with “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird.”

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - NEWS - — El­iz­a­beth Hurd,

Ok­la­homa painter Steve Boaldin ropes in new TV show on OETA.

Jewel Box The­atre kicks off its 60th sea­son with “To Kill A Mock­ing­bird,” a pow­er­ful story by Harper Lee pub­lished in 1960 and earn­ing the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. By 1970, the book was adapted to the stage by Christo­pher Sergel.

Jean Louise tells the story as an adult look­ing back on her child­hood. She re­mem­bers her fa­ther, and life as a tomboy nick­named Scout, keep­ing up with her older brother, Jem, in their small town of May­comb, Alabama, dur­ing the de­pres­sion in 1935. It’s just another year of pri­va­tion and tur­moil, but it marks a turn­ing point in the life of a lit­tle girl called Scout.

Ben Hall’s mas­ter­ful di­rec­tion for “To Kill A Mock­ing­bird” is ev­i­dent through­out, es­pe­cially in the smaller roles in this pro­duc­tion. Larry Har­ris, Ben­ton Jones, David Patterson, David Mays and Mark Ing­ham all turn in su­perb per­for­mances in this large cast. Roger Ox­ford and Teri Lynn Hood also de­liver ex­cep­tional mo­ments in the show; they are only the high­lights, as in such a large cast not ev­ery­one can be men­tioned in­di­vid­u­ally.

Molly Er­win is Mayella Robin­son, the young woman falsely ac­cus­ing Tom Robin­son of a ter­ri­ble at­tack. She squirms in the wit­ness chair. Her suf­fer­ing is pal­pa­ble. She’s so con­vinc­ing you re­al­ize she will never face the truth, and yet, fac­ing the truth will be her only sal­va­tion.

Norma Goff, who plays Calpur­nia, the Finches’ house­keeper, is the epit­ome of the per­fect sur­ro­gate mother, pro­tect­ing and dis­ci­plin­ing the chil­dren, and de­ter­mined to cre­ate a lady out of Scout.

The story of “To Kill A Mock­ing­bird” re­volves around Tom Robin­son, a young black man with a wife and fam­ily, who is falsely ac­cused of rape. Brian C. Scott be­comes Tom Robin­son with cer­tainty — his eyes re­flect fear for him­self and his fam­ily’s fu­ture without him. The white com­mu­nity in the deep south of 1935 will not tol­er­ate a ver­dict of not guilty.

The chil­dren re­flect in­tel­li­gent cast­ing. Ja­cob Dever, as older brother Jem, is pro­tec­tive of

Scout. Michael James as Dill car­ries des­per­a­tion reach­ing past pity and touch­ing the au­di­ence with real con­cern. He un­der­stands how im­por­tant At­ti­cus Finch is to ev­ery­one.

The role of Jean Louise

is dual. Car­rie Helms as the adult Jean Louise Finch re­calls her child­hood and fi­nally un­der­stands her fa­ther’s deep hu­man­ity. Emma Poin­dex­ter is Scout, the young Jean Louise al­ways in over­alls over skinned knees and a dirty face. The two do not seem in tune with each other.

Helms, out­side of the ac­tion, looks back at her mem­o­ries of Alabama in 1935. Her per­for­mance is strong and con­nects us to her role. How­ever, she’s dressed right out of a 21stcen­tury closet. While the moder­nity ac­knowl­edges racism is still with us, it works against the pe­riod cos­tum­ing of the fe­male cast. Hall and the ac­tors cre­ate deep au­di­ence en­gage­ment, and draw the pe­riod with ac­cent, at­ti­tude and fore­bod­ing. The mod­ern-dressed Jean Louise doesn’t fit the youth­ful Scout, par­tially be­cause Scout also wears mod­ern jeans. This lifts the two ac­tresses out of time. Jean Louise, dressed in a 1950s shirt­dress with a bouf­fant hairdo, would un­der­score the his­tory and give her role more rel­e­vance.

Poin­dex­ter’s Scout, won­der­fully en­er­getic and thought­ful, has lit­tle vo­cal vari­a­tion. She seems to ques­tion At­ti­cus judg­men­tally, al­most as if she is at­tack­ing rather than try­ing to learn from him. Also, she is re­spond­ing to Thurston’s Finch and that may af­fect her mono­tone de­liv­ery.

Tad Thurston is cast in the role of At­ti­cus Finch. He is one-di­men­sional with al­most no vari­a­tion in his de­liv­ery. At times he is rather stilted, more like a stuffed shirt than a sym­pa­thetic fa­ther. Thurston can, with a lit­tle more work, recre­ate the At­ti­cus that Lee imag­ined. That will al­low his re­la­tion­ship with Poin­dex­ter to change ever so slightly so she may be­come the Scout that Lee imag­ined her­self to be. Both can bring some­thing new and valu­able to the show.

The 2017 Foot­ball Pre­view is in­side to­day’s pa­per.

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