The core subject in the classic play "To Kill A Mockingbird" is still part of the news headlines yet today, nearly a century later. Okoboji Summer Theatre presents the play with such a relevant topic on stage this week and it is a stunner!
Maycomb, Alabama, during The Depression in 1935 shows those of us who grew up in the Midwest, how fortunate we were to be raised without the racial prejudices prevalent elsewhere.
From the book by Harper Lee, the movie became a pubic awareness tool for the injustices found to be the norm in the southern regions of our country. "Mockingbird" has a huge cast and there is not a weak link in the entire troupe. Everyone plays his or her role precisely and extremely well. The cast of 24 was directed by Gail Humphries Maridosian. I can only imagine how blessed Gail must have felt with so much talent to use to pull off this monumental undertaking.
The first thing you see when you take your seat in the theatre is a striking set designed by Kenneth George. Not only is it stunning but well planned for simple and smooth adjusting from front yard scenes to inside the courtroom.
Kirsteen Buchanan obviously had a large number of costumes to design. She stuck authentically to the time period and the muted colors of The Depression.
With such a large cast, I cannot begin to speak about each one. The students and professional actors on the stage meshed perfectly. The Spiritual singing was very good. There was a lot of musical talent on that stage.
The lead role of Atticus Finch was adeptly played by Jay Huguley. This is the first appearance by the California actor on the OST stage. You will remember him from movies like "12 Years A Slave," "Hijacked," and several more. He has also played roles on television in shows such as "Nashville," "CSI:Cyber," "Brothers & Sisters," etc.
He chose to play Atticus as somewhat withdrawn in his relationships but clearly with a huge heart beneath the aloof manner. He was super good!
Rob Doyen has a special talent for playing drunks. He doesn't fall into the trap of overplaying the role. Rob portrayed Bob Ewell and I can honestly say I didn't like Ewell from the first minute he appeared on stage. The play calls for some of the characters to come from the back entrance of the theatre to reach the stage on several occasions. Each time he walked/staggered past me (I have an isle seat) I found myself visibly flinching and ducking. Doyen was that good!!!
ZZ Moor was terrific as Calpurnia. I enjoyed Ryan Burke's portrayal of Heck Tate. Judge John Taylor was admirably played by Travis Mitchell.
Emily Sukolics drew the daunting task of playing an 11-year-old girl (Scout). While this college student is small in stature, which helps, she still needed to be able to pull this off. I thought she did an outstanding job of meeting the challenge. Her brother (Jem) was very well played by Austin Smith, another student.
Kudos to Herbert Moore for masterfully portraying the defendant in this trial, Tom Robinson. We felt his frustrations and fears throughout the entire show.
The six people on the jury were Lakes Area residents: Deb Lenertz, Diane Benjamin, Gerry Rathouz, Randy Arand-McIlrath, Tim Jenniges and Trudy Hopton. They stayed in character and did a fine job.
A standing ovation goes to the cast and crew of "To Kill A Mockingbird" for a show that is extremely well done. It has your total attention from beginning to end. The performances are outstanding. The story line enrages your sense of justice and humanity. Of course it is not a comedy ... tragedy would be a much more appropriate word. However, for those of you who only want to see live theatre that is funny, you are missing the boat. This is truly one of the finest productions you will see for a long time to come. "Mockingbird" runs through Sunday night. Don't miss it!