FALL THEATRE PRODUCTION:
Based on the
historic 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," this riveting courtroom drama pits
the values of faith and tradition against the ideals of
science and free expression. The play is remarkable for the depth
of humanity with which it portrays each of the players in this epic,
and shockingly timely, American debate.
October 19-28, 2012
October 19 & 20 at 8 PM
October 25 at 7:30 PM
October 26 & 27 at 8 PM
October 28 at 2 PM
Special student matinee performance: Tuesday October 23, 10:30 AM
Mendocino College Center Theatre
1000 Hensley Creek Road, Ukiah
Call 468-3172 for tickets and information.
Council of Mendocino CountyBox Office
"A Delicate Balance"
UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL THEATRE REVIEW
by Karen Rifkin
The brilliant script writing of the 1955 play Inherit the Wind comes vividly to life under the able direction of Reid Edelman as thirty-five local actors take to the stage at Mendocino College to present a fictionalized account of the 1925 Tennessee Scopes Monkey Trial in which a young school teacher is put on trial for teaching evolutionary theory contradictory to state law. The intent of the playwrights, Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, in employing the venue of a courtroom where Darwin’s theory of evolution goes on trial is meant to deliver an even broader message than that of intolerance. Lawrence told Newsday for a story on the 1996 Broadway revival of the play, "We used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control. It's not about science versus religion; it's about the right to think."
The play begins with a short, engaging encounter between two young and up-and-coming actors, Sasha Guleff playing Howard Blair and Ariella Heisse playing Melinda Loomis. She shudders as he dangles a worm in front of her face and taunts her with “you and your whole family was worms.”
They exit as Rachel Brown (leading lady Brittani Ray) hurriedly enters seeking her boyfriend, Bertram Cates (UC Irvine theater graduate Joel Shura), being held in the town jail for his beliefs. She, the most anguished character in the play, caught between her bigoted father and her love for Cates, maintains her credibility with a strong performance displaying a wide range of emotions that are only resolved in the last minutes of the play. Shura is rock steady, sure of himself and solidly believable as he wavers between the strength of his convictions and what might happen to him if he loses the case and goes to jail.
Enter Matthew Harrison Brady (played by veteran actor Lee Lupton in his Ukiah debut) on a metaphorical steed of self-righteousness with a compelling performance that keeps us entranced with liquid-tongued verisimilitudes that flow like quicksilver from the mouth of this bigoted, narrow-minded prosecuting attorney. He is utterly convincing from the start to his finish as he pronounces platitudes that reflect the conscience of this dogmatic community.
E.K. Hornbeck (Willits actor Mark Hetherington), the critic, the reporter from the Baltimore Herald, arrives on stage from the back of the house delivering a constant flow of cynicism with crisp and biting alacrity. His spot-on intensity portraying the sarcastic, anti-religionist holds the audience’s attention with clear, precise delivery and presence.
Veteran actor Jim Williams as Reverend Jeremiah Brown gives an academy-award-winning performance in an oratory exposition of fire and brimstone extolling the wonders of creation as explained in Genesis while simultaneously destroying the last, tenuous connection he has to his daughter Rachel. It is here in defense of Rachel that Brady utters these prophetic words in admonition to the Reverend: He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.
Henry Drummond (Ukiah theater favorite Gary Hudson) employs a steady cadence, at times appropriately understated, as he expertly channels the somewhat-world-weary persona of the defense attorney who relentlessly and oftentimes futilely challenges the Bible-thumping bias of Brady and the judge and a jury too ignorant to understand the language he uses to make his case. He weaves compellingly between fiery discourse and frustration in the courtroom to engaging raconteur remembering the anecdote of his ill-fated, childhood rocking horse, Golden Dancer.
While being questioned by Drummond during the trial on his understanding of evolution as taught by Cates, teen-aged Howard (Guleff) brings to mind not only some much-needed relief with his sane evolutionary viewpoint but the fact that we can look forward to seeing this young thespian grace the stage of future, local productions with his obvious, natural talent, utilizing all the tools of an impelling player.
The confrontations between the experienced actors
Hudson and Lupton stay properly contained, never overdone, creating tension when necessary and comic relief where appropriate and it is a tribute to their minds as actors and humans that they not only present consistently forceful performances but also seamlessly deliver hundreds of lines of memorized script.
The scenes move between the town and the courthouse and Larry L. Lang’s design requires a minimum of set changes. The witness stand and judge’s podium stay fixed throughout the play while chairs and minor furnishings are rearranged between town and courtroom settings. A large mobile, frame-like structure running the length of the stage is pulled up out of site for the town and lowered to the stage to create the illusion of a courtroom. Sometime the actors themselves make the requisite furniture changes and instead of leaving the stage, remain to begin the next scene.
Although the playbill tells us it is set in “a small town of not too long ago,” costume designer Kathy Dingman Katz, with her elaborate period costumes, most definitely takes us back to a period where things felt simpler, jackets were larger, dresses longer, men’s suits were a must and suspenders were in fashion.
The stage is peopled by the entire cast for most of the play and attention to detail by individual performers (although somewhat uneven in the early scenes) comes together in the courtroom enhancing the believability of the intense drama of the trial and the encounters between the sparring defense and prosecuting attorneys. The focus and keying of the court stenographer (Liana Edington), the expressions of jury members intently following the enfolding courtroom confrontations or laughing in derision at the expense of either Drummond or Brady; and the townspeople exclaiming with expletives as they are affronted by something said by Drummond all lend a subtle and deeper level of credibility to the production.
Kudos to supporting actors Maria Monti, Will Schlosser, Darryl Bridges, Ryan Eldredge, Crispin Cain, Charles Hessom and the rest of the cast, both veterans and novices alike, who have diligently studied and memorized countless lines of script to present high-quality performances; and hats off to director Reid Edelman and his hard-working production crew who have once again created an interlude of time allowing the rest of us to temporarily exit our own, everyday concerns and enter the world of exceptional theater.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MENDOCINO COLLEGE PRESENTS
INHERIT THE WIND
The year is 1925. A school teacher has been arrested for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution, violating a state law prohibiting the teaching of anything which contradicts a literal interpretation of the biblical account of Creation. The upcoming trial is becoming an international media event, with a three-time presidential candidate serving as the prosecutor and the world’s most famous defense attorney representing the teacher. Meanwhile, newspaper and radio reporters from around the world are descending upon this small town in Tennessee, focusing the world’s attention on the townsfolk and their views of science and religion. This is the true story upon which the historical courtroom drama Inherit The Wind is based. The Mendocino College Theatre Arts Department will present the play October 19-28 in the college’s Center Theatre.
In the 1955 script by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the names have been changed. The town of Dayton, Tennessee has become Hillsboro, and the famous politician William Jennings Bryan has become Matthew Harrison Brady (played by veteran actor Lee Lupton, in his Ukiah debut). The notorious lawyer Clarence Darrow has become Henry Drummond (played by Mendocino College theatre favorite Gary Hudson). The play comes to life as these two titanic figures clash in the trial of the century. While the script is very true to the historical events, the play is much more than a historical recreation of this significant trial. According to director Reid Edelman, “the playwrights wrote the play in response to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s attacks on intellectual liberty in the 1950s. While the issue of teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in public schools has surprisingly remained a heated issue, the play was never intended as a piece about evolution specifically. Rather, the theme of the play is the sanctity of human thought, freely expressed. It is for this reason that the playwrights chose to fictionalize the play’s character names and setting. As the playwrights state, ‘the setting could be yesterday and it could be tomorrow.’ It is certainly a timely story in our own world.”
With a cast of over 30 talented local actors, the upcoming Mendocino College production will bring the small town of Hillsboro to life on the college stage. The role of Bertram Cates, the school teacher, will be played by Joel Shura. Shura, an alumnus of the college theatre program, has returned to Ukiah after completing his theatre degree recently at UC Irvine. Shura now joins the college faculty, and will be teaching a class on acting improvisation this coming Spring semester. The role of Cates’ girlfriend Rachel Brown will be played by Brittani Ray. Ray has appeared locally in dozens of leading roles. The town preacher and Rachel’s father, Reverend Brown, is being played by Jim Williams. Other principle roles include the sardonic reporter E.K. Hornbeck, based on the real-life H.L Mencken (played by Willits actor Mark Hetherington), the local district attorney played by Will Schlosser, the judge played by Darryl Bridges and Sarah Brady, Matthew Harrison Brady’s wife, played by Ukiah High School drama director Maria A. Monti. This production promises to be a Ukiah community event, featuring a cast of students, college faculty and administration, local children and community members of all ages.
The action unfolds in the town square and in the summer heat of the sweltering court-room, as created by college set & lighting designer Larry L. Lang. The town is always visible behind the courtroom, suggesting that the town itself is on trial. The elaborate period costumes have been created by resident costume designer and instructor Kathy Dingman Katz, with the help of her crew of enthusiastic and dedicated costuming students. The production features hair and make-up designed by Amanda Katz. The play is being stage managed by Karen Seydel. Props have been designed and constructed by Darryl Bridges and Brooke Acker.
Inherit The Wind opens on Thursday October 19, 2012. Performances will run for two weekends only, through October 28. Performances are Friday October 19 at 8 PM, Saturday October 20 at 8 PM, Thursday October 25 at 7:30 PM, Friday October 26 at 8 PM, Saturday October 27 at 8 PM and Sunday October 28 at 2 PM. Tickets ($15 general; $12 students and seniors) are available at the Mendocino Book Company, at the Mendocino College Bookstore, and online at www.ArtsMendocino.org. Audiences are encouraged to purchase their tickets in advance, though tickets may also be purchased at the door.
Inherit The Wind is recommended for ages 11 and older. For more detailed information, visit the college Theatre Department web site at www.mendocino.edu/theater/deptindex.html. For additional information, call (707) 468-3172.