REVIEW: To Kill a Mockingbird

Aaron Sorkin’s production of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is as riveting as it is relevant. For three hours the audience is drawn in, and there is no turning back. Defense attorney Atticus Finchis is morally flawless, demonstrating grace, compassion, and self-restraint again and again, in the most trying of circumstances, with the most trying of people. This is Maycumb, Alabama, 1934 and Finch is defending Tom Robinson, a black man wrongfully accused of a violent crime against a white woman.

The story is told largely through the eyes of Atticus’ young children – precocious daughter Scout, and protective son Jem, who are thrust into the politics of a deeply segregated south once their father is appointed as Tom’s attorney. This is racism of the most insidious kind, the kind written in history books, that most of us can never imagine, and hopefully never experience. There is also humor and innocence and decency, and while it isn’t enough to overcome the ignorance and hatred of the time, it does foreshadow that change is possible. Yes, the change documented history books, but more importantly, the change in our hearts.

Tom’s accuser, Bob Ewell, is a wretched human specimen, an abusive drunk with seven children who has lost his job and his wife, and takes out his anger, most brutally on his eldest daughter Mayella. Though the evidence demonstrates that Bob is responsible for the crime for which Tom is charged, the all-white jury returns a guilty verdict in 37 minutes. That Robinson survived trial is itself a small miracle; when he is whisked to county jail in the dark of night one under suspicious circumstances, it is Atticus who keeps vigil and thwarts Bob and the Klan from abducting and lynching Tom. Through trial, Atticus maintains his faith in his fellow mankind, believing that they will do the right thing. When that doesn’t happen, Atticus has an awakening of his own, one that is prompted by his own children. The cast comes together at the play’s close to sing that morning will come, and there will be joy. But as one supporting character notes, the night is long. To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us that it is up to us to usher in the dawn, and that it is our children who will guide us.

To Kill a Mockingbird is playing at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis from February 14-19, 2023. Tickets are limited and start at $39.

Review by Kavita Battula; photo by Julieta Cervantes