“To Kill a Mockingbird” was written by Harper Lee in 1960 and is an award winning book. On Friday, I attended a matinee performance at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul which was filled with kids since many had read it in school. The show takes place in segregated Alabama in the 1930’s where it deals with racial inequality, rape and other controversial issues of the day. The show follows Atticus Finch, a Southern lawyer and his two children, daughter Scout (the narrator of the story) and son Jem. Atticus is defending a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of attacking a local white girl, Mayella Ewell. Although it is most certain he will not win the trial, he fights hard and teaches his children life lessons along the way.
Brother and sister duo on and off-stage, Olivia Coon (Scout) and Noah Coon (Jem) worked well together. Sometimes it is difficult when shows are carried by young actors but I believe they executed their roles well. Plus, how fun to do a show with your sibling. I know I enjoyed being in productions with mine growing up! Fred Wagner, who played Atticus, was my favorite in the show. His hand gestures and pacing were perfect for the part. He was easy to listen to and did a phenomenal job with his lengthy monologue in the court scene. Thomasina Petrus who played the cook and kid’s nanny, Calpurnia, was also a stand out. During the opening of the second act, a group of the ensemble sang a few gospel songs which were highly enjoyable and got the audience clapping along.
The set was somewhat simple but was effective for this place. Sometimes it is better to allow the imagination to run wild and have the actors paint pictures in your mind, instead of being too distracted by objects around the stage. There were large shutters which signified different houses. During the court scene, there was a wooden staircase with a platform at the top and bottom where the actors could sit. An old wheelchair was used for one of the elderly women in the show which I appreciated because it was true to the time period.
The show is perfect for students who are reading or have read the book in school. It allows the words they have read to come to life in a real way. Also, it is exposing students to the arts which is never a bad thing. The show runs just over two hours but manages to hold the audience attention which is mainly young people. For more information visit the Park Square Theatre website: www.parksquaretheatre.org