To Kill A Mockingbird

Much of To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in the court room. Original photo by Danielle/stock.adobe.com (used under license).
Does Ed Harris do justice to the role of Atticus Finch?

By Andrew Andrews

Many of us first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as an assignment in a high school class on American literature.

Released nearly seventy years ago, the story exposes the issues of class, gender roles, incest and racism that Lee witnessed as a youngster in depression-era Alabama.

If you’re not familiar with the plot: a girl named Scout tries to make sense of the death of white townsman Bob Ewell from falling on his own knife, after his black neighbor Tom Robinson goes to trial, accused of raping Ewell’s daughter.

Most of the story is told through a flashback, as Scout, her brother Jem and a friend named Dill struggle to live up to the expectations of their morally-upstanding widowed father, Atticus Finch.

Atticus, the lawyer for the defendant and a strong proponent of racial equality in the segregated South, nonetheless insists that the racist locals should not be judged until you’ve had a chance to crawl around in their skin.

We waited to see To Kill a Mockingbird until some friends who were interested could join us. By the time all of our schedules aligned, we missed Jeff Daniels’ stint as Atticus Finch, replaced by Ed Harris during his break from Westworld. Although I was looking forward to seeing Daniels in the role, Harris fits the part perfectly, as does the rest of the twenty-eight member cast.

The script for this production deviates enough from the novel that a lawsuit was settled between Lee’s estate and the producer; however, I’ve mostly forgotten the book since I haven’t read it for decades, so I can’t personally comment on the quality of the discrepancies.

The nearly constantly-changing set is a bit more than suggestive of the scenes, although surprisingly, that didn’t detract much from the experience, as there was always plenty of drama to catch the focus of our attention.

In the trial of Tom Robinson, empty chairs represented the jury of white farmers. Though this could be viewed as an attempt to save money by not paying a dozen actors to sit through the show without speaking, I believe it serves as a powerful metaphor for the state’s failure to provide the accused with a jury of his peers.

With no shortage of people willing to pay full price for this production, it’s no surprise that Mockingbird doesn’t show up on the TKTS discount list, despite the complete replacement of its original cast. And since the company shuts down every other production of Lee’s renowned story in a major metropolitan area, you’ll have to shell out the dough if you want to enjoy its performance any time soon.

Considering the quality of the production and the size of the cast, I have to say, it might very well be worth it.

5

Andrew Andrews attended To Kill A Mockingbird at Sam S. Shubert Theatre in New York on Saturday, November 30, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

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