Examining the East Ridge Production of To Kill a Mockingbird

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Examining the East Ridge Production of To Kill a Mockingbird

Nayla Delgado, Staff Writer

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Last week, classroom favorite novel, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, was brought to life in the auditorium by the East Ridge Theatre Department. The southern gothic is a story of a fictional town in Maycomb County, Alabama during the Great Depression where the protagonist, a young Scout (Rylee Galilei) and her brother Jem (Jackson Montgomery) struggle to understand life around them as their father Atticus Finch (Cyrus Tuesca) prepares to defend a black man in court, a controversial choice for the time. The powerful story addresses heavy subjects such as rape and racial inequality with the main message as printed on each program, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

The set for To Kill a Mockingbird was two old houses side by side with a large tree in the center, which is iconic to the storyline as it is where Boo Radley (Logan Hoskins) leaves small gifts for the children. On the far left and right of the stage are two porches opposite each other, one belonging to the elderly and snappish Mrs. Dubose (Caitlin Opiela) and the other belonging to the play’s narrator Ms. Maudie (Alex Seelmeyer). In the court scene, the Radley house opens up to become a full court with a balcony on top where the colored townspeople would stand to watch the events of the case unfold with solemn expressions. There was much attention to detail particularly through the placement of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait on the balcony near the colored townspeople, as he was the president that abolished slavery, in contrast to a portrait of George Washington in the bottom courtroom where the white people sat. The set was versatile and realistic, effectively setting the scene of the complex play paired with creative lighting to immerse the audience in this sleepy southern town.

The acting of the production was very good, with exceptional performances in the roles of Atticus Finch and the Ewells. Cyrus Tuesca’s portrayal of the serious yet kindhearted Atticus Finch perfectly emulates that of the beloved Gregory Peck from the 1962 film of To Kill a Mockingbird, from his vocal tone to his mannerisms. Dakota Ederer takes on the infuriating Bob Ewell and becomes the perfectly despicable villain to the play and Rebecca McDonnell also portrays the disturbed and erratic Mayella Ewell, delivering strong emotion during her testimony. Though some accents were hard to follow and some expressions overdramatized and unrealistic, the actors of To Kill a Mockingbird successfully embodied the complex cast of characters in the play.

Arguably the best scenes were the high tensions of the courts and the climactic fight between two dark figures later revealed to be Bob Ewell and Boo Radley. The court scenes brought out the best of each actor, from the temperamental testimonies of the Ewells to Tom Robinson (Tyshon Tunnell) steadily telling his truth knowing the future he will be condemned to, as well as the powerful monologue delivered by Atticus before the jury takes their vote. The climactic fight scene in the night also shows the theatre department’s creativity in using blackout scenes and blue lights to create indiscernible figures brawling as the audience sits on the edge of their seats anticipating for Scout and Jem’s escape and the reveal of the shadowed figures.

However, the production seemed to lack some of the pacing used to convey the important central message. The part about Boo Radley leaving gifts for the children was mentioned once but never again and the relationship between the children and their fear of the Radley house seemed lacking in substance so later on in the play when Boo Radley saves them, it leaves the audience slightly confused about the message. Additionally, a critical moment was missed after Robinson was announced guilty, where Atticus walks out as the balcony of colored people who attended the case, praying and hoping that Tom Robinson would receive justice, stand for him with respect and he silently looks up at and acknowledges them. This moment reflects the importance of Atticus taking the case for a community that was underrepresented and even when represented, never received justice. Instead, the moment was missed due to crew members standing around in the court, waiting to move props around during blackout.

Despite missing some points in displaying its original message through the plot, the production served as an important reminder of a critical time in history to all those who attended; especially here in Clermont where the real-life case of the Groveland Boys occurred not too far away and shares many similarities with the case in To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus’s quote echoed through the auditorium, and through classrooms and the mind of readers everywhere. it is an important message we should all carry with ourselves, to be more empathetic and understanding of others. To Kill a Mockingbird received a well-deserved standing ovation on Friday night for their portrayal of complex characters and their expression of a powerful storyline.