Yes, Lee can!
Harper Lee’s classic novel from 1960, set in the Depression-era South, is a coming-of-age story, a courtroom drama and a portrait of corrosive racial prejudice.Christopher Sergel’s oft-staged adaptation—currently mounted outdoors by Main Street Theatre Works—resonates best during the courtroom scenes, which dominate this production. Actors Allen Pontes (as wise, compassionate attorney Atticus Finch), Kelton Howard (the unjustly accused black defendant in a rape case, aware he won’t get a fair trial) and Mark Stone (angry racist Tom Ewell) generate electricity, guided by director Susan McCandless.
However, the show’s opening scenes, depicting leisurely everyday life, sometimes turn languid; and the play’s closing confrontation doesn’t deliver quite the chill of tragedy barely averted that it might.
Traci Marshall (as warm, savvy housekeeper Calpurnia) brightens several scenes, fussing over three slightly wayward youngsters (played by tomgirl Devon Hayakawa and teenage boys Matthew Taul and Matt Kozak). Julie Anchor (Miss Maudie) bridges scenes as narrator, with ruminative monologues. The Kennedy Mine Amphitheatre, with its grassy terraces and majestic oaks, is also a pleasant, casual venue on warm summer evenings.
It’s also fascinating to relive Mockingbird today, with its focus on racial issues, as Barack Obama contends for the White House. When Lee wrote the novel, it was beyond the realm of political possibility that a person of color, or a woman, could even represent America like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. So what about an election for the Oval Office? How will voters handle this? Time will tell.