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.
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.”
Michael Eck’s review in The Times Union