Monday, September 26, 2011

RCP's 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is a must-see production

Kathryn Majesky and Wiliam Santoro as Scout and Atticus Finch
By Cheryl Thornburg
No matter how many times you read Harper Lee's "To Kill  A Mockingbird" or see it brought to life on stage, it is an incredibly moving experience, and Reading Community Players current production is no exception.
Director R. Bruce McLean has put together a strong cast and  drawn powerful performances from them as they take on some of the most memorable characters in literature.
The story is required reading in most high schools and the familiar plot still evokes powerful emotions.
Set in the deep South in 1935, it is the story of Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer who is defending Tom Robinson, a young black man with a crippled arm who has been falsely accused of attacking a young white woman. The tension in the town is palpable and tempers flare as the trial draws near. The Civil War has long been over, but the lines are still clearly drawn in Maycomb, Alabama.
Atticus is played by William Santoro with a depth and sincerity that is quite remarkable. Whether dealing firmly with his children, Scout and Jem, or delivering a passionate closing statement at Tom's trial, Santoro is totally believable. His delivery of the summation speech is powerful and poignant.
James Barksdale plays Tom, and although we only see him on stage in the second act, he delivers a subtle and stirring  performance as the gentle and stoic man on trial.
Christopher Sergel, who dramatized the classic novel, uses the device of Atticus' daughter Scout, now the adult Jean Louise Finch, to narrate the complex story as she looks back on what happened when she was a child. Beth Farmer, plays the adult Scout with just the right touch of  nostalgia and sadness as she recounts the events from long ago.
The young Scout, a feisty tomboy, is played to perfection by Kathryn Majesky, who was seen earlier this year in the title role in  RCP's "A Little Princess." Whether princess or tomboy, she can handle it all.
Luke Ott plays her older brother, Jem, who's equally mischievous, particularly when he's egged on by their friend Dill, played by Panayiotis "Pete" Clauser. The target of some of their antics is Boo Radley,  a recluse that no one has seen in years. This trio's chemistry is fun to watch.  Perhaps they've become really good friends in real life, for their interaction is quite believable on stage.
Kevin Wade is  superb as the mean, foul-mouthed and violent Bob Ewell, the father of the young woman who was allegedly attacked by Tom Robinson. I suspect Wade is a really nice guy, but he is very convincing as the intimidating Ewell.  He never breaks character.  Watch his face in the background at the trial.
Julia Minotto plays his daughter Mayella with a sensitivity as she cowers  while testifying under the glaring eyes of her father.
Brian Miller plays Mr. Gilmer, the persistent prosecutor who is determined to convict Tom of the crime, with intensity and style.
The large cast features actors ranging in age from 12 to 80+, and even the "smaller" roles give everyone a chance to shine on stage.
Margaret Orner is fun to watch as the mean Mrs. Dubose  and Diann Stewart evokes lots of laughter from the audience with a gleam in her eye as the town gossip, Stephanie Crawford.
Ruth Martelli's Maude Atkinson is sincere and likable as another of the townsfolk who supports Atticus and tries to help Scout and Jem.
As the Sheriff Heck Tate, Randy Miller brings a depth to this complex character who is a product of the era, has strong sense of right and wrong and tries to keep the peace in Maycomb.
Earl Boehmer as Judge Taylor has a brilliant moment at the trial as he reacts to an outburst by Bob Ewell.
Colin Long also only has a short time on stage as the reclusive Boo Radley, but he captures the essence of the strange young man who hides from society.
Rounding out the cast  are Joan Reppert as Calpurnia, John Foster as Rev. Sykes, Bob Barskey as Walter Cunnigham, and Kenneth Dreistadt as Nathan Radley.
This is a cohesive cast with no weak links. They recreate Lee's Maycomb with honesty and compelling story-telling.
Bruce McLean designed the set, which is quite ingenious, somehow compressing an entire town into one small stage  -- and it works.
The entire production is first-class community theater, allowing the entire audience to "climb into other people's skins and walk around in them" to understand that time in our history, as well as some things that are still happening today.  The play's message of courage, integrity, loyalty  and tolerance are as relevant today as they were when Lee first created this remarkable story more than 50 years ago.
"To Kill  A Mockingbird" is a must-see production.  Sunday's performance was a near sell-out, so make reservations soon. It continues through Sunday  October 2  at 403 North 11th Street in Reading.  Friday and Saturday evening shows begin at 8 p.m., while Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m.
Since on-street parking is limited in the area, RCP provides a free shuttle service from the parking lot of the 13th and Green Elementary school for patrons’ convenience
 For reservations please call the theater at 610-375-9106 or visit  the web site at RCP may also be  reached at

For up-to-date information on area theater productions and auditions, follow Cheryl Thornburg on Twitter @MercArtsCheryl


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your wonderful article.
Ken Dreistadt/Stage Manager

September 26, 2011 at 11:26 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The timing of this production is perfect for celebrating Harper Lee's 1960 classic novel. Bruce McLean's direction made the audience aware of how timely the story still is. Thanks RCP for performing this great drama.

September 26, 2011 at 3:12 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is So wonderful to have Live Theater in the Reading Area!--BRAVO

September 26, 2011 at 5:12 PM 

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