Even though it's been many years since I read the book or saw the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck (so long that I had forgotten the ending), the story is familiar to anyone growing up in this country where it's required reading at most schools. In 1935 Alabama, a black man is accused of raping a white woman, and Atticus Finch defends him in court despite the bad will of most of the town against him and his family for defending a black man. All of this is reflected through the eyes of his daughter Scout who, along with older brother Jem and friend Dill, watch the proceedings with curiosity, fascination, confusion, and dismay.
|Atticus with Jem, Scout, and Dill (Baylen Thomas,
Noah Deets, Mary Bair, and Issac Leer, photo by Joan Marcus)
|the trial of Tom Robinson (Baylen Thomas, J.C. Cutler,
Ansa Akyea, and Peter Thomson, photo by Joan Marcus)
As per usual at the Guthrie, the set, costume, lighting, and sound design make it easy to suspend disbelief and feel like we're in a small Southern town a century ago. The thrust stage is covered with a worn wooden floor, surrounded by three front porches and one rope swing. The jailhouse is lowered from the ceiling, and the inside of the courtroom comes up from below for that crucial scene that spans the intermission. Lived-in period costumes complete the look (set and costumes by James Youmans and Matthew J. LeFebvre).
I found this to be a really lovely evening at the theater, one that left me with tears in my eyes, a warmth in my heart, and a feeling of injustice, not so much at Tom Robinson's fate (because really, what other ending could there be in the deep South of the 1930s), but that Tom Robinson's story continues to be repeated today. To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic piece of American literature, one that's timely and relevant despite being set 80 years in the past, and this beautiful production and excellent cast of young and old alike bring it to life in an entirely satisfying way. (Continuing through October 18.)