By Calee Gardner
Based on the beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Harper Lee, CenterPoint Legacy Theater’s To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Jennie Richardson brings this dynamic and powerful drama about humanity to life.
To kill a Mockingbird tells the story of the Finch family living in the 1930s in Maycomb, Alabama. Scout Finch (Avery Empey) as just a young girl comes face to face with the effects of racial prejudices and tensions as her father Atticus Finch (Michael Hohl) prepares to defend Tom Robinson, (Carlos Emjay) a black man wrongly accused of a crime. Scout and her brother Jem, (Jack Gardner) seek to assist and defend their father and through the process are exposed to both the ugly and redeeming sides of humankind.
From the moment the doors opened to the CenterPoint Legacy Theater, located just north of Salt Lake, I was welcomed and greeted by kind ushers who directed me to the box office where I was able to pick up my ticket and was kindly assisted to help me find my seat. The theater looked beautiful, a red curtain rising to welcome a tableau of characters, brought to life by the voice of Lee (Annie Ferrin), a retrospective version of Scout herself.
With each connection Ferrin makes, the town in brought to life as she distributes a basketful of props. She then dons a flowered hat to create a secondary character, Maudie. This fluctuating hat functions as both a storytelling device, and a metaphorical explanation point at especially poignant monologues in the production. Ferrin’s thoughtful speeches and spirited portrayal of her character fueled the progression of the plot and the effectiveness of the emotional impact.
The set is lovely. My eyes devoured the little details, a hanging swing, the broken-down fence of the Radley residence, flowers growing in their box, and an antique wheelchair gazing down from the balcony above. Set Designer Scott Van Dyke has created a beautiful functional space to bring the characters world alive. The costume design, imagined by the director Jennie Richardson, fit in well with the overall color palate of the production, but also functioned as a characterization device. From Scout’s “unladylike” overalls, to the Elwell’s disheveled appearance, the prim floral print of Stephanie Crawford’s (Holly Reid) dress, and Atticus’ simple grey suit, the costume and hair design by Hope Bird created a historical authenticity to the production. Derik Walden, the sound designer, supplied beautiful music attending specific scenes of the show, heightening the emotion of the scene.
Richardson’s direction was thought provoking and work in unison with the script to provide the innocence of Jem and Scout juxtaposed with the hate and injustice of their world. Another notable aspect of the directing was the focus on different family and community relationships, it echoes our own modern world’s turmoil, fear and uncertainty as we deal with issues of race, gender, and violence.
Atticus Finch, one of the greatest heroes of American literature is a difficult character to tackle. Hohl’s interactions with the Sheriff, Heck Tate (Zar Hayes), the vile villain, Bob Elwell, (Mike Brown) his daughter Mayella Ewell, (Kate Williams), Tom Robinson, and the children, show s the gentlemanly behavior and quiet wisdom that identifies Atticus Finch. The performance of William Hoagland as Dill is notable; he delivers a heartfelt monologue that is one of the most poignant moments of the production. The courtroom conflict is successfully executed by the onstage action of Mr. Gilmer (Michael Gardner), Judge Taylor (John Dale Williams), and Emjay’s portrayal of Tom. Mrs. Dubose (Chris Brown), the elderly neighbor whom Jem misjudges, but eventually grows to know by reading to her, is another notable performance.
Bringing such a well-known story to life, especially one teeming with unspoken tensions and frightening situations requires courage and finesse. The CenterPoint Theater seems to make some tense situations more family friendly by lightening the somber mood with humor. This production of To Kill a Mockingbird is valuable for it provokes thought about our current society and the political climate in which we live. It invites change. Anyone who has enjoyed the story of Boo Radley (Ethan Chidester) and his gentle care for Scout and Jem, about Atticus Finch and his stalwart calm and integrity, proving the good in humanity, should come see CenterPoint Legacy Theater’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a show that’s perfect for a New Year and will inspire you to be a little kinder and judge a little less.
CenterPoint Legacy Theater presents To Kill a Mockingbird by Christopher Sergel
CenterPoint Legacy Theater, 525 North 400 West, Centerville, UT 84014
January 5-February 3 7:30 PM
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