THE COURT ROOM IS NOW OPEN AT THE GOLDEN GATE STAGE
Aaron Sorkin’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD will have you understand young Scout Finch distrust in the American Dream
Review by Vince Mediaa
This fall the courtroom has opened at The Golden Gate Theatre. Writer Aaron Sorkin has reimagined Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and young Scout Finch guides you through the classic court case. This drama that brings a murder suspect to justice is on stage at BroadwaySF through October 9th. Sorkin was criticized for the liberties he took with the book. He focuses on Lawyer Atticus more than Scout as the main character providing him with a stronger arc. The vet actor Richard Thomas is an excellent Atticus, bringing dignity and strength to the small town lawyer. Atticus' has that "There's good in everyone" attitude that hides how racist and terrible some of his neighbors are.
Present day issues are part of Sorkin’s script, and boldly brought to the stage by director Bartlett Sher and a cast headed by Richard Thomas as a superb emotionally charged Atticus Finch, the lawyer who defends the accused. “A mob is a place where people go to take a break from their conscience,” Atticus tells his family, Scout played by the impressive Melanie Moore and Jem played by the ideal Justin Mark. “When horror comes to supper, it comes dressed exactly like a Christian,” says Link (Anthony Natale), a white man criticized for marrying a Black woman. This is a Southern courtroom during the depression, but relates to 2022. “We have to heal this wound,” Atticus tells his neighbors’ in his defense statement, or we will never stop bleeding.”
The “white savior” narrative was important in the novel. The Black citizens of Maycomb standing in the balcony as their hero enters the courtroom. Sorkin's script adds power to the Black characters in Lee’s story: he gave voice to the character of Tom Robinson played by the distinguished Yaegel T Welch and significantly changed the relationship between Atticus, and his domestic helper, Calpurnia played by the formidable Jacqueline Williams, in a very powerful role.
The plot about the coming of age of a young girl in 1930s rural Alabama as she is exposed to a particularly cruel case of racial injustice, remains relatively intact. Scout, played by the riveting Melanie Moore, protects the fictional town of Maycomb, through a child’s eye. She has the reverence of a teen who will grow up to be a lawyer. She has been raised by her father Atticus to see the court as a church, capable of fixing the injustices that fill the streets of their small town.
Sorkin adapted the book with a character development and a contemporary arc. Scout along with her brother Jem played by Justin Mark, full of teen angst and their sweet pal Dill played by Steven Lee Johnson, quirky and based on Harper Lee’s friendship with Truman Capote. The teens are played by young adult actors who all serve as the narrators to the story. Sorkin has opened up the book’s most prominent black characters, Tom and longtime family maid allowing them to fully express themselves. Sorkin presents Atticus' views including his famous advice “to climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it” before rushing to judgment are challenged and changed.
Miriam Buether’s scenic design outlines the poverty of the town; it suggests an abandoned industrial factory, and it connects the play with rural America.“TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD” has an impressive score by Tony winner Adam Guettel and played on organ and guitar proves it is engrossing, and unsettling. Sonkin makes this work left of center racism in America and it is not the only thing on trial in this courtroom. So is liberalism with its insistence of the American Dream that continues to be on trail every day.
“To Kill a Mockingbird”: Written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from Harper Lee. Directed by Bartlett Sher. Through Oct. 9. Two hours, 45 minutes. $56-$256. Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F. 888-746-1799. www.broadwaysf.com
Broadway SF Presents
“TO KILL A MONKINGBIRD ”
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Bartlett Sher
Featuring RICHARD THOMAS
MUST CLOSE OCT 9TH
Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St
The show runs 2 hours and 35 minutes and one intermission
Tickets: $56-$256 (subject to change); 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com
PHOTO CREDIT: JULIETA CERVANTES
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