Theatreworks presents…
Prejudice is the child of ignorance.
William Hazlitt

If you have not read this book or seen the movie starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, you have missed one of the most important stories of the last century defining where America was in the thirties and the direction we dare to hope it has gone. In 1960, Harper Lee wrote this semi-autobiographical novel about her father and her own loss of innocence when she comes face to face with the harsh realities of prejudice and anger in Macomb, Alabama. This play is something every person who wants to understand his humanity and the responsibility it entails must see. I cannot say the Theatreworks production lives up to the strength of the book, but it is a good show and several actors keep the pace moving toward its horrifying yet satisfying conclusion.

The book sold over thirty million copies and has been translated into over forty languages. The very reading of it makes a huge difference in peoples’ lives. It won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and to this day has never been out of print. “As American as pecan pie and courtroom drama, TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD is also a universal story, pitting humanity’s potential for compassion against its proclivity for hate,” says Director Robert Kelly. “It contemplates injustice through the unformed and uncomprehending eyes of a child….It also articulates a cautionary lesson for any democracy that the minority may not always make the right or the honorable choice.”

The novel’s central character, Atticus Finch is patterned after Lee’s father and that character has had a tremendous impact on the legal profession’s vision of what an honorable lawyer can be. He has become the personification of someone who can walk in the shoes of his clients and understand why they most do what they do to survive. Anthony Newfield does a fine job of portraying Atticus, a character bigger than life on a multitude of levels, and Howard Swain who plays three different characters with artistic integrity and heart steals this reviewer’s heart. His wife, Nancy Carlin plays a character not in the book, Miss Maudie Atkinson and it is she who narrates the story. Rod Gnapp is the red-neck, prejudiced, hateful Southern cracker, Bob Ewell. He plays his part to perfection, never over-acting, always too real for comfort.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is a difficult challenge for any theater company because it has been done so well in so many different media. The book is a masterpiece; the movie unforgettable, a classic of its kind. It is all but impossible to cram a dense, beautifully written novel into a two hour play. Christopher Sergel’s dramatization is good but not great. The children somehow get lost in the shuffle of scenes moving back and forth. Characters that should have shone were lost in the direction. Still, the play itself is too important to miss. See it; think about it and ponder the realities of the injustice every minority faces that still is glossed over by the majority. “Can we grow into caring and responsible adults in a world dominated by conflicts between races, governments, religions and political points of view?” asks Kelley. “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD shows us a world of intolerance through the eyes of a girl and a country filled with immense hope and unlimited potential. America would grow into a better place than the one we see in Alabama, 1935.”

The question we must ask ourselves as the final curtain descends on this disturbing and socially important drama, “Is Robert Kelley right? Has this country really improved enough given what we know and what has happened in our turbulent angry history? Are things really different for people of color, for people who are out of the conventional accepted box?

I am not sure they are.


TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD continues through May 9, 2010

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA

TICKETS & INFO: 650 463 1960 or

I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird