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Jeff Daniels in Harper Lee’s "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the Shubert Theatre
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Jeff Daniels in Harper Lee’s "To Kill a Mockingbird" at the Shubert Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights


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Scott Rudin, Barry Diller, Lincoln Center Theater
Universal Theatrical Group
et al. and
Executive Producers:
Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson
Present:

Jeff Daniels
in
Harper Lee’s
To Kill a Mockingbird

(Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Website)

A New Play by Aaron Sorkin

Also Starring:
Celia Keenan-Bolger, Will Pullen, Gideon Glick
Frederick Weller, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Stark Sands
Dakin Matthews, Erin Wilhelmi, Danny McCarthy
Neal Huff, Phyllis Somerville, Liv Rooth
Danny Wolohan, LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Directed by Bartlett Sher

Original Music by Adam Guettel

At the
Sam S. Shubert Theatre
A Shubert Organization Theatre
225 West 44th Street
212.239.6200

Scenic Design: Miriam Buether
Costume Design: Ann Roth
Lighting Design: Jennifer Tipton
Sound Design: Scott Lehrer
Music Director: Kimberly Grigsby
Hair and Wig Design: Campbell Young Associates
Casting: Daniel Swee, CSA
Production Stage Manager: J. Jason Daunter
Press: DKC/O&M
Production Manager: Aurora Productions
Company Manager: Megan Curren

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 7, 2019


Aaron Sorkin has polished and refined Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, for the 2019 Broadway stage. I waited to watch the 1962 film, on completing this review, not wishing to muddle my immediate impressions. In 1934 Maycomb, Alabama, Atticus Finch, lawyer, will defend the case of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewall, daughter of a hard-drinking, obsessively racist father, Bob Ewall, who seethes in the spotlight of his decadence and social depravity. Atticus’ young daughter, Scout, and son, Jem, gentle-hearted Southerners, comment in phrases and opinions that echo our yearning for a pleasant resolution to the evolving drama. But, as the audience palpably roots for the freedom and safety of Mr. Robinson, it witnesses blatant injustice, as the townspeople spawn an angry mob in the final hour of this lengthy literary journey. Dill Harris, Jem’s buddy, is also imbued with a conscience, but one he’s not able to articulate. The Finch family’s hired help, Calpurnia, seems to have the strongest backbone and deepest soul onstage. Her presence shines a transparent light on the omnipresent racial divisions, many of which are absorbed by the best of them as a comfortable status quo. Calpurnia shakes that comfort level and smacks it to the wind.

Jeff Daniels, as Atticus Finch, has a restrained, sophisticated demeanor. His educated, well-dressed manner propels his self-confidence and social standing. He speaks with the well-hewn flair of a seasoned country lawyer, and his sturdy shoulders, straight back, and forward gaze engender credibility and formidable power. Yet, the vulnerable Tom Robinson, an impressive Gbenga Akinnagbe, is foolishly led to the common space and road of the town Klansmen, and it appears that Scout, the always marvelous Celia Keenan-Bolger (so superb in the 2013 “The Glass Menagerie”), craves new guidance from her very busy father. Will Pullen (who got rave reviews here for “The Wayside Motor Inn”) exudes presence as Jem in Miriam Buether’s wide-open set. In fact, the versatility and rawness of the often dim (with Jennifer Tipton’s dramatic lighting) scenic design brings us from home to porch to vague neighborhood space to courtroom. The drama transcends the confines of the mise-en-scène. Bartlett Sher’s astute direction enables the characters to embody the foreboding tension and survive the tragedy’s sadness.

Ann Roth’s period perfect costumes are artful, and Scott Lehrer’s sound design had the most minimal comments piercing the air in their poignancy and portent. Adam Guettel created effective original music that enhanced the narrative (with Ms. Keenan-Bolger and Mr. Pullen assisting as narrators.) As Judge Taylor, Dakin Matthews added heft to the solid courtroom dialogue, ever so gripping and compelling. Additional fragments of eloquence come from unexpected sources, like the local drunk, Link Deas (Neal Huff) and Mrs. Henry Dubose (Phyllis Somerville), an addict with a will to survive amidst her bluster and pain. Erin Wilhelmi, as the doomed Ewall daughter and Frederick Weller, as the demonic Ewall father, were both persuasive. And, as the ensemble and stage crew seamlessly flow through the action and set shifts, the cleared jury box awaits, metaphorically and meaningfully. Kudos to Aaron Sorkin, Bartlett Sher, Jeff Daniels, and the cast and designers for a fantastic night at the theater.



Jeff Daniels in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes



Jeff Daniels and Gbenga Akinnagbe
in Harper Lee's
"To Kill a Mockingbird"
Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes



Celia Keenan-Bolger
in Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes



Will Pullen and Gideon Glick
in Harper Lee's
"To Kill a Mockingbird"
Courtesy of Julieta Cervantes



See a Testimonial of Daniela Trattoria's New Redesign.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net