published Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Chattanooga Theatre Centre's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' offers timeless, important life lessons

By Debbie Hale
Chattanooga Theatre Centre
Chattanooga Theatre Centre

Harper Lee's masterpiece, "To Kill A Mockingbird," helps mark the continuation of the 90th anniversary celebration of the 2013-2014 season of the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

In this Main Stage adaptive dramatization by Christopher Sergel, the audience favorite continues to dictate a timeless message for past, present and future generations about human values and the decision to do what is right when the majority would choose the inhumane injustice of doing what is politically correct.

Director Chuck Tuttle leads his cast of 17 in a production that is not a feel-good story but one that lends itself to provocative thought and inner soul-searching. In this talented cast, some standouts do rise. In her Chattanooga Theatre Centre debut, third-grader Claire Holtzclaw makes the 6-year-old tomboy Scout become real as this complex little character, through her transition from naive child to blatantly realistic young lady, develops perfectly on the stage.

As Scout's older brother, Jem, sixth-grader Charles Nicely also excels in his first major role at the CTC; he is most impressive in this awakening performance.

Bernard Timothy King III, a theater major at the Center for Creative Arts, shows fear, hope and frustration in his portrayal of the doomed Tom Robinson. His performance is touching and exemplifies the pain and agony of the deep-seeded racial prejudice in the South during the 1930s.

Harper Lee's protagonist, Atticus Finch, is portrayed in a powerful performance by Jim Kennedy, who personifies the character of Atticus as he holds the audience in the palm of his hand during the court scene when one so wants to hope against all hope that justice will somehow prevail in an unfortunate mockery of justice.

Set designer Sarah Miecielica and costume designer Stephanie Henderson whisk us back to visions of Depression-era memories with a beloved remembrance of good and bad times long past. Special music by the Women of Worship at Bethel AME Church adds a great gospel touch to the production.

No matter how great the play, one can never capture the complete work on stage that is contained in the novel so completely. With that said, Lee never wrote another novel, but with this classic she certainly leaves a message about real values and the importance of doing what is right with a burning awareness of the very flawed and complex world in which we live.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" is just as relevant and thought-provoking today as it was in years past. With adult issues, the play is not suitable for extremely young children, but this is definitely a play for all ages capable of mature thinking.

It will be presented again at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday as well as 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 30-31; 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 29; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 1.

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