To Kill a Mockingbird, the second production in the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theater’s 2007 season, offers several strong performances in a modern theater classic. There were no empty seats on opening night, June 28, and the crowd at the post-show reception bubbled with praise for the actors and director.
Now in its thirty-third season, SART continues to deliver some of the best stage performances in WNC in the intimate surrounds of Owen Auditorium at Mars Hill College. Mockingbird features Michael Goodwin, an Actor’s Equity professional from Richmond, in the starring role as lawyer Atticus Finch. Goodwin delivers the goods in a portrayal than runs the gamut from fatherly warmth to righteous defender of justice. Having recently watched the 1962 film version for which Gregory Peck received a Best Actor Academy Award, I can attest that there is no comparison. Goodwin trumps Peck hands-down. (This reinforces my supposition that Peck was honored more for his courage in taking on a politically charged role than for his actual acting.)
Flynt Burton as Mayella Ewell, the young woman who falsely accuses Tom Robinson of assault, delivers an over-the-top performance. The standing ovation at the end of the show could have belonged to her alone despite the relatively small size of the role. She is saucily uneducated, coquettish, shy, demanding and pitiable. Huzzah!
Asheville High School theater director CJ Breland delivers a wonderful performance as the cranky opium-addicted Mrs. duBose, the sort of crotchety oldster you just love to hate. Breland has a strong reputation for her directorial and performance work and this go-round should further her well-earned acclaim.
Claxton Elementary student Savannah Crespo turns in a strong showing as Scout, Atticus Finch’s daughter and prod. The diminutive 11-year-old has a larger-than life stage presence and a fine command of delivery and timing. She is one to watch as her career unfolds.
Director Bill Gregg proved adept at using all available space in the small theater and combined his thoughtful distribution of the action with Rob Berls well-considered lighting to make every element of the play work.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer