Driftwood Players stage ‘raw’ ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

By Jesse Blair | Feb 21, 2018
Courtesy of: Dale Sutton “To Kill a Mockingbird” runs through Feb. 25 at the Wade James Theater in Edmonds.

Driftwood Players’ presentation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” is a raw, gripping and thought-provoking presentation of a small town caught in the throes of racial injustice.

Set in southern Alabama in 1935, this stage adaptation follows the trial of a black man named Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a young white girl named Mayella Ewell. Defense attorney Atticus Finch, played by Jalyn Green in his Driftwood debut, is Robinson’s only advocate and friend.

Finch is willing to risk his reputation and career to come to his defense.

Sheriff Heck Tate (Tim Platt) can’t understand why he took this case. “You got everything to lose,” he says.

But Finch remains strong in his convictions. He believes that in many things men are not created equal. But in a court of law all men are created equal. “In the name of God do your duty!” he tells the court.

A parallel story follows three children led by Finch’s daughter, Scout (Nava Ruthfield), who holds a prejudice against a man they’ve never seen named Boo Radley (Phil Hodges). Finch instructs the children not to judge someone until they have stepped into their skin.

How the two stories come together at the end is so thought provoking they should keep audiences pondering about issues of social justice long after the curtain is drawn.

Southern Alabama came to life in the first act with swamp-like sound effects and an eerie solo performance of the spiritual Deep River. Characters dressed in overalls and flannels live in Victorian-style homes complete with wicker benches on their front porch.

Children ran outside, throwing the football or playing hopscotch while the town reverend paid his flock a visit.

Director Elizabeth Herbert hopes the play provokes an array of emotions. “I hope it makes us examine everything we know or think we know about compassion, social injustice and the world we are leaving to our children,” she said.

John Ruoff and Elliot Sherin offer intense performances as Bob and Mayella Ewell. Ruoff’s performance ranges from ignorantly bigoted to racially hateful as he accuses Robinson of attacking his daughter.

Sherin’s character is far more complicated, as she tries to mask her own shame while aggressively accusing Robinson under oath of raping her.

Seattle actor Ronnie Hill delivers a moving performance as Tom Robinson. You could feel the intense pressure he was under while being examined and accused. His character was not being charged by just a small band of racists who earlier tried to lynch him. He was being charged by a historical prejudice that caused a civil war.

In the center of the stage at the judge’s seat is a map of Alabama with “Alabama Great Seal” inscribed on it. This emblem represents the racial tensions that were not just significant to this small town, but to the judicial system at large.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is not lighthearted entertainment. Theatergoers must be prepared to hear racial slurs directed at blacks during that time. They must also be willing to examine social injustice that occurs at both the judicial level and in everyday life.

The play closes with “Deep River,” the same song it opened with: “Lord, I want to cross over into campground.”

This is the central theme of the story, to cross over from the slavery of injustice to the freedom of equality.

To Kill a Mockingbird”
Where: Wade James Theater, 950 Main St., Edmonds
When: Through Feb.25. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; Saturday matinee 2 p.m. Feb. 24. ASL-interpreted performance 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17.
Tickets: $28, $25 senior, juniors, military. Group rates are available for 10 or more tickets purchased in a single transaction. School discount code is available for teachers and students.
Information: edmondsdriftwoodplayers.org, 425-774-9600, option 1
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