Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is taught in classrooms around the world and is without a doubt the most widely read book dealing with racial injustice in America. In 1962, Robert Mulligan adapted the book into an Oscar winning film in which Gregory Peck emblazoned the character of Atticus Finch onto popular culture. Long story short, To Kill a Mockingbird is a timeless American classic. And taking on a classic is not an easy task.
Reading the novel and seeing the film were both significant moments in my own childhood. These brilliant works of art helped me to develop a moral compass and taught me valuable and brutal lessons about the world I lived in and the nature of man. So when I learned that the Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre was to make T.K.A.M. their fall production, I became excited… and then I began to worry. I mean how could Christopher Sergel’s play adaptation possibly live up to its iconic predecessors? So needless to say that when I walked into the Edison Theatre on October 10th I was expecting to be disappointed. I will say that I felt a great deal of emotions while watching this play Thursday night, I can assure you that disappointment was not one of them.
What director Shira Dubrovner, the stage crew, and this ensemble cast accomplish on that stage is nothing short of spectacular. What struck me first was the incredible use of space. If you have ever been to the Edison Theatre then you know that it is relatively small in size. However, this cozy theatre has been fantastically transformed into the small town of Maycomb, Alabama circa 1935. This tiny stage became a quaint neighborhood with five houses, downtown Maycomb, and a crowded courtroom all at once. And speaking of crowded, this cast includes twenty actors with some cast members playing multiple roles. While the opening night jitters were apparent and a few lines were flubbed I was more than pleased with the vast majority of the performances.
Jamie Peabody, in the lead role, captures the spirit of Scout and delivers in impressive fashion. The interaction between her, Jem (Tanner Van Tassell), and the precocious young Dill, played by Devin Crume, carry the play and deliver quite a few unexpected laughs. While Ted Carleton, who plays Atticus Finch, is no Gregory Peck his powerful stage presence fills those shoes better then I ever could have imagined. Millena Gay’s performance as the Finch’s housekeeper, Calpurnia, was so strong that it elicited applause from the audience more than once and you can see why she was brought up from Los Angeles for this role. I have seen Juliana Olinka in a number of plays at the Edison. Juliana never disappoints and was literally unrecognizable as old Mrs. Dubose. Also worth mentioning is new comer Gary Walker’s comically repugnant Bob Ewell and Michael Dostrow’s strong, however despicable, performance as Mr. Gilmer.
Shira Dubrovner directs this enormous cast masterfully and pays tribute to a great American story. When I asked Shira how she thought opening night went she responded by saying that, “It was amazing. Everyone pulled together and it was awesome.” That is putting it lightly because in this stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Dubrovner somehow manages to transport the audience to a different era to deliver messages that are timeless. I highly recommend reading the novel, seeing the film, and going to see this play. You can catch this play at the Edison Theatre in Mammoth Lakes Thursday-Saturday at 7pm and on Sundays at 4pm until October 27th. Tickets are $20/$18/$10 and if you would like some more information make sure to check out www. EdisonTheatre.org.