‘Art of a Cowboy’
Jewel Box Theatre kicked off its 60th season with “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
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.