Production does justice to stage adaptation of iconic novel

Barbara Gillespie, from left, Lloyd Balme, Jane Saunders, Ian Butler, Don Mitchell and Zhyon Headley in "To Kill a Mockingbird," now playing at the Domino Theatre. (Grant Buckler/Supplied Photo) jpg, KI

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The successful staging of such an iconic novel as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is no easy feat, given the magnitude of its diversity, complexity and controversy. Under the impressive direction of Rachael McDonald, the cast and crew of Domino Theatre’s production of Christopher Sergel’s adaptation rise to the occasion and deliver an entertaining and resonant portrayal of this impactful classic.

This is the well-known story of a wrongly accused African American man in 1935 Maycomb County, Ga., and the highly principled local lawyer tasked with and committed to defending him — not only in an attempt to save the life of the defendant, but also the innocence of his children and the humanity of his neighbours (despite their best efforts to resist the truth and the societal change it heralds).

Patrons are welcomed to become a part of the Maycomb community, with McDonald’s staging of the play enveloping the audience and directly addressing them throughout. Her interpretation also makes the most of the comedic moments in the play, which are unexpected but welcome and appreciated, given the gravity of the subject matter.

An inherent challenge in adapting any novel to the stage is the inclusion of the necessary exposition found in voluminous pages in such a way that it imparts the pertinent information and frames the story, but also moves the plot forward and entertains. Sergel’s adaptation leans heavily on the part of Miss Maudie to move in and out of scenes as a pivotal grounding character, but also serving as narrator. As Maudie, Cathy Griffin does so with grace and generosity, playing her own part with compassion while also setting up and reflecting on each scene she is positioning for her fellow cast.

The role of Atticus Finch is a showcase for the remarkable talent of Don Mitchell, who so comfortably delivers, with depth and charisma, the multifaceted character of a man trying to do right by everyone amid the conflict and turmoil. Tom Robinson, the accused, is played simply and beautifully by Zhyon Headley.

Each of the children carries a significant load, and Chloe Rioux as Scout is a true presence and force to be reckoned with. Kieran Chenier and Graeme McKee, playing Jem and Dill, also hold their own with admirable consistency, though all three would benefit from slowing down a little so all of their lines can be fully understood.

The rest of the large ensemble is incredibly strong as well. The performances of Lisa Morgan Slack as Calpurnia and Lloyd Balme as Heck Tate in their supporting roles are noteworthy, and both Garrett McCrae and Esme Purdy offer compelling physical and vocal characterizations of Bob and Mayella Ewell, respectively.

This is a tight and sharp looking production as well, with a design team and running crew that provide a setting that is as efficient as it is esthetically pleasing. Grant Buckler’s set and Ruth Moore’s costumes are especially delightful, while completely functional.

Although Atticus’ efforts in the courtroom remain doomed to failure, Domino Theatre’s production of To Kill A Mockingbird is a triumphant success — and here, in 2020, we still have so very much to learn from that.

Essentials

To Kill A Mockingbird

Novel written by Harper Lee

Adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel

Directed by Rachael McDonald

A Domino Theatre production running Thursday to Saturday until Feb. 1. Curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. (Feb. 1 performance is at 2 p.m.) at the Davies Foundation Auditorium, 52 Church St. Tickets are $20 plus surcharge, and can be purchased online through kingstongrand.ca.

Atticus: Don Mitchell

Scout: Chloe Rioux

Tom Robinson: Zhyon Headley