The following article by Gail Lowe appeared in The Daily Item (Lynn, Mass.) on Thursday 25 April 2002:
The Theatre Company of Saugus has resurrected To Kill A Mockingbird from the annals of classic theater to remind us that prejudice and intolerance are as shameful and sinful as murder and rape, and that justice must be upheld at all costs. The company’s interpretation of this story Saturday night was honest, inspiring, and thought-provoking.
The esteemed Leo Nickole, a top scholar in the field of American musical theater and who is now retired from Emerson College, directed this group of homegrown actors and actresses. The result is good theater at low cost.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a love story that started out as a novel written by Harper Lee. The book, published in 1960, was a phenomenal success and become an immediate classic. It also won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The story’s message is as pertinent today as it was in the 1960s, perhaps even more so.
Set in rural Alabama, the story is narrated by Laura Schrader-Johnson. Scout (Arielle Rawding), the tomboyish daughter of attorney Atticus Finch (John Conlon), is fascinated by all the people in her community and is full of questions for her widower father. She wonders why black people have a special feeling for him and why her white friends are hostile to her.
Her questioning is all the more compelling when her father defends a black man wrongfully accused of raping a white woman. Scout can’t grasp the reasoning behind her father’s decision to represent the defendant. His reply to her is as straightforward as it is honest: “If I don’t, I couldn’t hold my head up.” As an analogy, he uses the mockingbird to explain his decision to Scout, telling her that mockingbirds are harmless creatures and to kill one would be an outrageous sin.
It is in the sympathetic narration by Finch’s widowed neighbor that the viewer feels the power behind the underlying theme of right and wrong, and it is in the dialogue that the theme is brought to the fore. There is nothing tender and sweet about this play. Its very essence is an indictment of all humanity and makes the demand that the road less traveled is the only road. Lee, in writing this novel, begged the reader to eliminate all thoughts of racial bigotry and to realize that ignorance is the mother of hate.
Because of the setting in the Deep South, the cast is required to adopt a southern dialect, and for the most part, these players succeed.
Costuming is first rate, and the scenery in both acts is professionally done. In act two, the courtroom scene, members from the audience become members of the jury.
Individual efforts by adult cast members John Conlon, Rosemary DeGregorio (Stephanie Crawford), and Ron Howard (Judge Taylor) are highly professional. Child actors Arielle Rawding, Stephen Schapero (Dill), and Peter DiMauro (Jem) have a promising future in theater.
When the verdict comes in, will justice be served? Will Scout and her friends lose their childhood innocence? Or, will they be left with the undeniable fact of life that the guilty often go free while the innocent are proclaimed guilty? Why not get a ticket and see for yourself. …
TCS welcomed several new members in the cast: Arielle Rawding as Scout Finch, John Conlon as Atticus Finch, Tania LeBlanc as Calpurnia, Joshua O’Hara as Boo Radley, Stephen Schapero as Dill Harris, Richard Italiano as Heck Tate, Kris Reynolds as Mayella Ewell, Fred Nuzzo as Walter Cunningham, Michael Cuddire as Mr. Gilmer, Marc Dove as Tom Robinson, Johnelle Penns as Reverend Sykes, and Margretta Green and Lena Walker as the Choir. We welcome returning former members: Ron Howard as Judge Taylor, Elaine Lerman as the Court Clerk, and the stage manager, Ellen Santosuosso. Recent members include: Laura Schrader-Johnson as the Narrator, Peter DiMauro as Jem Finch, Rosemary DeGregorio as Maudie Atkinson, Barbara Hunt as Stephanie Crawford, Frances Latour as Mrs. Dubose, Larry Segel as Bob Ewell, Jean Amorosi as a Neighbor, and the director, Leo Nickole.