LIVE: “To Kill a Mockingbird” @ Capital Repertory Theatre

Don Noble and Teigin Legault

Don Noble and Teigin Legault (photo by Laurin Trainer)

Like Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel and Richard Mulligan’s Academy Award winning film, Capital Rep’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a classic.

It’s a big-issue story of integrity in the face of injustice, and director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill backs it up an appropriately big production – featuring a sprawling cast of 26 actors. And yet there’s a profound intimacy to what goes on onstage.

With a huge cast like this, there are usually a few weak links, but the acting here is consistantly strong from Don Noble (as the righteous Atticus Finch) to Steven Patterson (as the despicable Bob Ewell) to Michael Anthony Williams (as the unjustly accused Tom Robinson, who is caught in the middle).

Noble has the most difficult and thankless mission – trying to create a character who has already been indelibly etched into our memories by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film – and yet he does just that with a quiet confidence and a sure-handed performance.

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Patterson – last heard onstage as the booming, buffoonish voice in the title role of Firlefanz Puppets’ production of “Ubu Rex” earlier this year – nearly steals the show. His Ewell is all spit and snarl – a vile, bitter caged animal of a man consumed by hatred. It’s Patterson’s debut on the Cap Rep stage, but it’s also something of a full circle for him, as he was a member of the Lexington Conservatory Theater (under the direction of Oakley Hall III), which later evolved into Capital Repertory Theatre.

Other outstanding performances are turned in by Brenny Rabine (who, as the grown-up Scout, narrates the action as a memory play without a trace of sentimentality), Kevin Craig West (as the Reverend Sykes) and Erica Tryon (as the Finch housekeeper and anchor Calpurnia).

With “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the success of any stage production rests on the shoulders of child actors in the crucial roles of Scout, Jem and Dill. Cap Rep is employing two different sets of youngsters throughout the run of the show, and on Wednesday’s opening night, 15-year-olds Teigin Legault (Scout) and Christian Meola (Jem) proved to be talented beyond their years. And as the awkward, eccentric outsider Dill, 14-year-old Bethlehem Central High School freshman Thomas Murray was simply outstanding.

In addition to the usual Cap Rep performance schedule, there are also 10 special student matinees of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Unfortunately, they are all sold out. But this production is the perfect way to introduce children to live theater, so skip the babysitter and bring your youngsters to a performance.

If they balk, you can always tell them, “Hey, it’s in 3D.”

SECOND OPINIONS:
Michael Eck’s review in The Times Union

“To Kill a Mockingbird” continues at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany through Sunday, March 28.

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3 Responses to “LIVE: “To Kill a Mockingbird” @ Capital Repertory Theatre”

  1. Roger Green says:

    I’m going tomorrow w my wife.

  2. Marnie says:

    Thomas Murray is my son and I have to say I knew he was good at acting but to hear the responses from the audience and the critics has been very moving for Thomas and our family. I am so proud of him and his hard work in making his character come alive.

  3. Robert S. Hendrick says:

    In the past, I have experienced some brilliant productions at Capital Rep, but sadly, this was not one of them.

    The heavy handed direction has turned this poigniant, moving novel (and film) of southern prejudice in the 30′s into a stilted, unemotional production.
    The pace in the film (like the south itself) is slow and deliberate and allows the viewer to savor each line of dialogue. This stage production achieves none of this.

    Conversely, all of the film’s pregnant pauses are noticeably missing in this adaptation.

    In one of the most moving scenes in the film after the verdict, when the black preacher says “miss Jean Louise, stand up, (pause) your father is passing”; there is not only a missing pause, but you feel that the actor can’t wait to get the line out, thereby ruining the dramatic impact of the scene.

    What was central to the gradual realization by the children that Boo Radley was not the monster they assumed; was the finding of the objects in the tree hollow and the dicussion that followed. The significance of these encounters was glossed over by the director.

    The acting for the most part was perfunctory (with notable exceptions of the boy Dill, Bob Ewell, May Ella, Tom Robinson and Atticus’ courtroom summation). The director’s decision to include in the cast an on-stage narrator (a grown Scout) could have enhanced the play if done properly. As it turned out, her voice was irritating, and detracted from the plot. She had neither the speaking voice (delivering her lines like she was on a soap box) nor the ability to handle this pivotal role.

    Also, the scene changes were clumsy and unimaginative.

    In conclusion, this play definitely equals the sum of it’s parts–by rushing headlong to it’s expected unemotional curtain.

    Robert S. Hendrick

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