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Growing Up with Scout Finch

Difficult truths in Waukesha Civic Theatre’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

Oct. 31, 2016
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To Kill A Mockingbird is a many-layered story, and Waukesha Civic’s production pushes the plotline of racism to the forefront. The experience begins with an unusually thorough curtain speech forewarning audiences of the difficult subject matter and derogatory language present in the play. This is followed by a production in which the strongest moments, and those with the most finely wrought tension, are those within the plotline of Tom Robinson’s trial, the African American man accused of molesting a white woman.

Rhonda Marie Schmidt’s direction keeps the courtroom scene taut, straining through every minute of the struggle between prosecution and defense. Nazir Grey portrays a quiet strength as Tom, in effective contrast with Alyssa Falvey’s skittish Mayella Ewell. Couched in moments of quiet from the talented listeners in the ensemble, certain moments stand out, stark and painful in their parallels to today’s world. Grey plays the wrenching simplicity of his response to Atticus’ questioning about why Tom ran from the Ewell’s home: “If you were black, you’d be scared too.”

The denizens of Maycomb, Alabama create a lovely texture for the production with charming flashes of life; young Dill and his yoyo, women knitting through the trial. Calpurnia (Cheryl Peterson) provides a welcome moment of hilarity in her tirade against the children for sneaking into the trial without permission, marching them out through the audience and back again. Grace Munson is a clear-voiced, playful Scout who holds the audience’s hearts in her hand when she takes Boo Radley’s.

At its center, To Kill A Mockingbird remains a story of a young girl learning about the world with kindness in the face of ignorance and cruelty, a young girl who invites the audience to grow in wisdom as she does.

Through Nov. 13 at Margaret Brate Bryant Civic Theatre, 264 W. Main St., Waukesha. For tickets call (262) 547-0708 or visit waukeshacivictheatre.org. 

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