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Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:04

To Kill A Mockingbird @ Pierce College

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For much of the Pierce College stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” various covers of the famous novel are projected high on a screen, reminding the audience that Harper Lee’s book remains one of the cultural milestones of the last 50t years.

The legend will grow this July with publication of “Go Set a Watchman,” Lee’s long-buried second novel, which is set 20 years after the events in “Mockingbird.”

Pierce selected a most opportune time to produce the adaptation, written by Christopher Sergel, which premiered in 1990.

This production is being staged in the college’s newly-renovated Performing Arts Center. As much as I will miss attending performances in the cozy white tent, the redone center, with its expansive stage, clear and clean sound system, and perfectly-tiered seating, is an outstanding venue.

I’m eager to see what the Pierce theater department continues to do with its state-of-the-art facility.

Millions and millions of people from the ages of 12 to 100 have read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and millions of people in nearly that age range have seen the film. In the case of the staged version, the numbers drop significantly.
That in itself is a reason to head over to Pierce between now and closing night, May 10. You’ve read the book; you’ve watched the film; now see the play.

There are additional incentives to attend as well.

Chief among them is Michael Chandler’s performance as Atticus Finch. Saying that any production of the play requires a strong Atticus doesn’t mean it’ll happen.

But Chandler fills that requirement and more. With his wise but cautious manner, alert to the realities of southern injustice yet seeking a better world, the actor beautifully conveys the social and political challenges facing a man like Atticus in a small Alabama town in 1935.

Other standout members of the cast include Jean Hyppolite, a proud and unflinching Tom Robinson; Elyse Hamilton, feisty and self-assured in the rich role of Scout; Gannon Hays, chatty and charming as Dill Harris, a character supposedly based on Lee’s childhood friend, Truman Capote; and Lark LeClear, who plays Mayella Ewell, the girl making the false accusation against Tom Robinson. LeClear handles with appropriate pathos Mayella’s breakdown on the witness stand.

Gene Putnam’s wonderful set uses four homes of different colors and shapes to convey the architectural charms of a small town neighborhood in the 1930s.

The inviting residences are a stark contrast to the all-too-prevalent racism of many of the townspeople. It’s a peculiarly Southern paradox.

RoZsa J. Horvath’s direction has the characters moving briskly from one end of the ample stage of the next, speaking as they go. The style is just right for a play with a large cast and a plot that announces its themes in bold letters. No time to linger.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs through Sunday, May 10.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 818-719-6488 or online at brownpapertickets.com. The Performing Arts Mainstage is located on the Pierce College campus, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills.

Read 7233 times Last modified on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 09:26
Tom Waldman

Tom Waldman is the host of “Rock and Roll” Stories, which airs each month in Southern California on television station KLCS. He’s co-author of “Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock and Roll from Southern California”, and author of “We All Want to Change the World: Rock and Politics from Elvis to Eminem”. When Tom was 10, in 1966, his favorite group was the Monkees. He still likes them a lot.

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