(Broadway.com)If you are a fan of Harper Lee’s book and/or the movie, this is not either of those, but it’s related. What it is, is Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of both to demonstrate his concerns about racism, nativism, and white supremacy then and now. The author gave Sorkin permission to revise her book but her estate was reportedly upset by his version which contains “a new narrative structure, black characters who express anger and frustration, and a running tension between civility and confrontation — that could make the story resonant for contemporary audiences,” (NYTimes, Michael Paulson and Alexandra Alter) Eventually the estate and Sorkin came to an agreement. You can’t miss the obvious parallels to what’s going on around us and although Samuel Goldwyn said “if you have a message, send it Western Union,” I think this play works.
(60 Minutes) First, you have Jeff Daniels, who plays Atticus Finch very well (but will always be compared to Gregory Peck whose shoes are hard to fill,) a kind polite man who is forced by his conscience to defend a man hated in his community for the color of his skin.
Scout, the narrator of the story, is played by Celia Kenan-Bolger, an adult actor as are all three children, because these roles are considered too difficult for children to play on stage. She is especially fine at communicating Scout’s youth,intelligence and curiosity.
The hatred surrounding them is visceral: Mayella, the ‘so-called rape victim,’ complains how unfair it is that she has to live in a world surrounded by “N______s.” Her brute of a father doesn’t blame the “N_____s;” it’s not their fault how G-d made them, –it’s the traitors he blames. You know right away who the villain is.
All of this is worked nicely into a smooth first act and a slightly prolonged second act with bits and pieces of the book and the movie included. I have always loved the film, and remember the book kindly, although I may have to reread it.
(Variety: Gregory Peck and Brock Peters)
Barlett Sher directed an almost flawless production with sets and actors moving seamlessly up, down and sideways. Broadway has never looked better.
When PBS was conducting its survey of America’s favorite books, I asked Rory which one he thought would be #1. Without hesitating, he named “Mockingbird.” Everyone turned out to see this version of the nation’s favorite story. You will like it too, but get your seats fast. When you go to the famous Shubert Theater, take an umbrella if you have to wait to get in; there is no lobby.