For the play critique assignment, I saw To Kill a Mockingbird on October seventh. The play was performed at the Second Space Theatre and was produced by the Good Company Players with The Dramatic Publishing Company. I have read the book which the play was based on, so I was exposed to the story line prior to having seen the play. Based on my knowledge of the text by Harper Lee, I was able to distinguish distinct differences between the book and the play, which I feel affected my reaction to the script.
For example, the script left out when Scout and Jem Finch, and Dill were snooping around the Radley house and had to flee the yard through a break in the fence, when Nathan Radley came outside to investigate the noise they were making. This caused Jem’s pants to get caught, forcing him to take them off and return to retrieve them later that night. I feel leaving this out lessens the impact of Nathan’s character, which already has such a small part in the story. Nathan’s character is lessened because leaving this out causes his menacing demeanor to be portrayed as rude in his other scenes.
Also, this adaptation of the play did not include when Miss Maudie’s house caught on fire and Boo Radley comes out for the first time to wrap a blanket around Scout and Jem, without anyone noticing. This choice places less of an impact and underlying focus on Boo’s role, which may have left some viewers confused as to why he was so mysterious throughout the play and suddenly a key character in the end. However, I did enjoy the fact that the script stayed true to the text in the lines of Older Scout, as well as the emphasis they put on the lightheartedness of Dill.
Based on the stage performance I viewed on October 7, 2012, I believe most of the actors did very well. For example, Scout, played by Bailey Short, Jem, played by Colin Clark-Bracewell, and Dill, played by Marty Margolin, were excellent, especially considering their young age. All three were very professional in all aspects of their performance, as proven by the fact they stayed completely in character and didn’t skip a beat when an audience member’s phone screeched out several loud rings, during their opening lines.
In the beginning of the play, when aspects of the exposition were being introduced, Scout appeared on stage, and in her first line you could tell she was a bit nervous. As the play progressed though, she became more comfortable and it was clear she was enjoying herself. Chris Carsten, who played Atticus Finch, did an amazing job on portraying the role of Scout and Jem’s father. He truly became Atticus and made it easier for the rest of the cast to play off of each other’s emotions.
For example, when Walter Cunningham, played by Mark McKeon, gives Atticus a sack of food as payment for his entailment and Atticus assures him that he has paid him plenty. Walter Cunningham is a man of limited means, seeing as he is a struggling farmer, and has paid in other ways besides money; he had left food or firewood at Atticus’ door many times and Atticus reassures him, in a polite, non condescending tone, that his debt has been paid off. Immediately, this eases Mr.
Cunningham’s sense of guilt and obligation, which can be seen through his facial expressions. Everyone’s southern accents were uncannily authentic. However, I did not think Alexis Powell, Mrs. Robinson, and Colby Priest, the Robinson’s son, did very well. Their performance was not realistic. Though they had very little lines, their acting seemed a bit forced and maybe even amateurish. For example, when they were supposed to be grieving the loss of Mr. Robinson their expressions did not convey the emotion of sadness. I thought the play was directed quite well.
Considering the small stage the actors had to work with, they truly took advantage of every inch of it. As reflected by the performance, the director, Karan Johnson, drilled into the actors the importance of stage use. The cast definitely utilized the small area by engaging with the audience. They got up close and personal by standing very close to the first row of seats, in almost every scene. The blocking instructions from the director made the performance true to the script. It was relaxed, which fit the play considering it took place in Maycomb, Alabama.
For example, the children in the play, as well as the adult men, had their hands in their pockets while speaking to each other, and any other time they were not using them. Every character walked slowly and only ever moved faster when they were running, like during the scene where Jem is dared by Dill to touch the porch of the Radley house. I particularly enjoyed whenever Scout, Jem, and Dill were up to something sneaky and they would look stage left and stage right in anticipation of being caught. The director chose the cast very well.
All of the actors fed off of each other’s’ energy, which added to the entire performance. The cast genuinely appeared to be having fun and loved what they were doing. It was like they were a family. On the other hand, I do think the parts of Mrs. Robinson and the Robinson’s son could have been better cast. Compared to the other cast members, they both seemed awkward and inexperienced, but I respect the fact that they performed to the best of their ability. Because of the small stage, the sets were very limited.
The sets were very small and only changed once, when they were doing the courtroom scene. Despite that restriction, they made necessary accommodations and it did not take away from the play. I found the use of lighting very efficient. For example, whenever Jean Louise Finch, the older version of Scout, was speaking in her reflective tone, there was a spotlight on her and the rest of the stage’s lights were dimmed. This added to the dramatic tone of the scene. The use of sound effects, such as when a car was approaching or when a gun was shot, made the play more realistic.
All of the costumes stayed true to the time era and the makeup was coordinated with the outfit. The actor’s costumes also reflected their social class. For example, Calpurnia, the Finch’s housekeeper, was dressed in a basic dress and an apron wherever she went while Miss Maudie, the Finch’s neighbor, was attired in a more fancy dress which was always accompanied with a hat. Atticus always wore a suit which showed his professional side and the children were dressed in clothes that were suitable for playing around.
During the courtroom scene, all of the white women wore their Sunday best and had a lot of makeup on to signify that it was a special occasion in Maycomb. My overall reaction to the play was a positive one. I was thoroughly entertained and was pleased with the level of performance. I never found myself bored and my thoughts never trailed off to something other than the play. The rest of the audience’s reaction was also positive, with the exception of a couple behind me who found it acceptable to continually whisper throughout the show.
Besides them, people were attentive and were entertained with the drama of the play. People laughed at all of the appropriate moments and gasped during the dramatic ones, such as during the scene when Jem and Scout were attacked by Mr. Ewell. After the play, when the audience was leaving the theatre, words of praise were spoken by everyone around me and I feel the cast truly deserved all of the great things that were being said about their performance.