To Kill a Mockingbird, Village Players Theatre. Adapted from the Pulitzer-winning novel by Harper Lee, Christopher Sergel’s play depicts a town in 1935 Alabama divided over the trial of a black man accused of raping a white woman. Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson while the lawyer’s precocious children, Scout and Jem, are mostly concerned with drawing mysterious neighbor Boo Radley out of his home.
Sergel’s adaptation brims with moralistic aphorisms reminding us to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes or to apply justice equally. As directed by Nathaniel Swift, the preachy dialogue is even more overtly educational, especially given the slow pacing and a staging that saps the tension from potentially thrilling moments. For instance, when Atticus faces down a mob, all we see are the backs of the angry men, a choice that obscures the intensity of his fear and their loathing. The child actors are difficult to hear, few of the other performers make an impression, and most of those who do are simply miscast. Particularly trying is Carl Occhipinti’s Atticus: more Jimmy Stewart than Gregory Peck, he lacks the gravitas to be the town’s moral center. Only Elizabeth Macik, giving testimony as the supposed rape victim, and Billy Simmons in his brief stint as Boo create credible characters.
To Kill a Mockingbird tells an important story, but unfortunately this melodramatic play falters under the weight of its message.