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The Lyceum: Cast shines in the classic "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Atticus Finch, played by Warren Kelley, speaks to his son Jem, played by Neil Cathro, in a performance of "To Kill a Mockingbird" at The Lyceum Theatre in Arrow Rock. Atticus struggles with maintaining tight relationships with his children during a court case in a small 1930s Alabama town. Pictured on the right are Delaney Jo Sauer as Jean Louis "Scout" Finch and their friend Charle "Dill" Baker Harris, played by Cole Walker.
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Many have studied Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird," but seeing the story come to life on stage was both frighteningly real and fantastic.

When the lights finally came up on The Lyceum Stage and actors took their marks, the audience was instantly transported to Maycomb, Alabama, where residents are feeling the pain of the Great Depression and their moral characters are as varied and tempered as southern humidity.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" follows Scout and Jem Finch as their father, Atticus, defends a black man who's been charged with raping and beating a poverty-stricken white woman. In his Director's Notes, Quin Gresham said Lee's themes and storytelling "never fails to leave me both heartbroken and encouraged at the same time." And I believe that's a primary reason the story is so beloved.

Breathing life into the story was a cast that catapulted me from viewer to townsperson. I felt I knew each of the characters -- and perhaps we're all familiar with individuals such as these. Some thrive on the highs and lows of others' lives while others attempt to live up to higher standards.

And that juxtaposition creates the right amount of tension on stage.

Throughout the play, Warren Kelley as Atticus Finch easily presents himself as a man of reason. His children have the general freedom to make their own choices, but not without Atticus' words of wisdom. Along with friends, Atticus attempts to keep his children from exposure to the horrors of the world, but inevitably lets them see and understand the case he's working on.

Toward the end of the story, Kelley paces up and down stage, alone and crying as the circumstances begin to take a dramatic turn toward his family. This remarkable scene ending produces a wave of emotion that overtakes both the levelheaded lawyer and the audience. It is overwhelming.

Seated are Tom Robinson, played by Segun Akande, and Atticus Finch, played by Warren Kelley during The Lyceum's current production of "To Kill a Mockingbird," which runs through Sept. 15. Seated center-right is Claire Gresham, who plays a troubled Mayella Ewell, and Kari Ely as Maudie Atkinson. In this scene, Atticus defends Tom Robinson who's on trial for attacking Mayella Ewell.
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In addition to Kelley, there were many noteworthy performances. Kari Ely as the Finch's friend and the play's narrator Maudie Atkinson, Brent Bateman as Sheriff Heck Tate, Claire Gresham as the supposedly violated Mayella Ewell, Harold Hynick as her drunken father Bob Ewell and Segun Akande as the defendant Tom Robinson create a community that's as real in 1930s as it is today.

Delaney Jo Sauer as Scout, Neil Cathro as Jem and Cole Walker as their friend Dill portray the young heroes with innocence and zest. Yvette Monique Clark as Calpurnia, Ashley Pankow as Stephanie Crawford, Tempe McGlaughlin as Mrs. Dubose, James Woodland as Judge Taylor and Walter Cunningham, Cris Davenport as Reverend Sykes, David Hemsley Caldwell as Boo Radley and Mr. Gilmer, and Rich Lawson as the court clerk round out the cast with natural, well-timed appeal.

Players seemed to perform with mind, body and soul. Their physicality brings another dimension to a play that has a lot of action happening off stage.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" presents topics such as race, family, innocence and justice. The town of Maycomb seems to slowly be growing in moral character just as the children come of age, which is apparent as Scout reminds one character of his individualism and Atticus' affect on the jury. This was one of the finest productions I've seen to date, and a must-see for any theatergoer.

The show runs through Saturday, Sept. 15, with shows at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased or reserved online at www.lyceumtheatre.org.

Contact Sarah Reed at

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I saw it this weekend. It was amazing, shameful yet hopeful, humorous at times and very, very moving. The cast did a beautiful job.

-- Posted by luvthoseowls on Mon, Sep 10, 2012, at 10:40 AM

I was at the 2:00 showing on Sunday and the play was stunning. I have read the book and seen the movie. I thought it would be hard to live up to Gregory Peck's performance on film, but Warren Kelley did the job admirably. I recommend this play to any theatergoer. The kids did a wonderful job as well.

-- Posted by mdp367 on Mon, Sep 10, 2012, at 10:37 AM

We saw it today. It was amazingly good. whether or not you have ever read the book or seen the movie, you will love this show.

-- Posted by inthemiddle on Sun, Sep 9, 2012, at 9:54 PM

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