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Mrs K and I traveled north to Noblesville for a second weekend showing of To Kill a Mockingbird, based on Harper Lee’s landmark novel of 1960, and adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel. Most of us have a familiarity with Ms. Lee’s book or with the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch, or both. The play, which debuted in 1990, is perhaps less familiar, but does a solid job in telling the classic tale of racial tension and injustice, loss of innocence and the rewards of integrity.

Frequent Belfry director Carla Crandall has brought together a large cast of 30 actors of all ages to present the play, many in the group making their debut performances on the Belfry stage. The story is told through the eyes of narrator Jean Louise Finch, who represents Ms. Lee – a role which is wonderfully handled by Tonya Fenimore. Leading the way in this storyline are three young thespians: Simon Lynch, who effectively plays Atticus’ son Jem; Joel Gaar, very winning in the role of Dill, a boyhood friend (modeled after Harper Lee’s imaginative childhood friend, Truman Capote); and Gloria Merrell, who does quite an admirable job with the important role of Scout – Ms. Lee’s own childhood persona.

Jack Hittle as Atticus Finch in The Belfry's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Jack Hittle as Atticus Finch in The Belfry’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”

The iconic role of Atticus Finch is taken by Jack Hittle, who supplies an evenly toned performance, while Eric Barker is ‘on the mark’ as Sheriff Heck Tate, and three neighbor ladies of various temperaments are well done by Jan Borcherding, Susan Townsend and Marianne Bergamo. David Burch is sufficiently repulsive as Bob Ewell, the loathsome man who accuses black townsman Tom Robinson of beating and molesting his daughter, Mayella Ewell. And the pivotal roles of Tom and Mayella are extremely well-done by Bobby Washington and Katelyn Maudlin. Both do fantastic work in their courtroom appearances.

William R. James deserves mention for his debut performances as Arthur “Boo” Ridley and as Boo’s brother, Nathan. Tina Humphrey is a pleasure to watch as the lively Finch housekeeper, Calpurnia. And James A. Brown does noteworthy work as community leader Reverend Sykes. A myriad of other fine performers fill the roles of townspeople and courtroom principals, including Daniel Shock as the unenviable prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer; and Thom Johnson as Judge Taylor.

Katelyn Maudlin as Mayella Ewell and Thom Johnson as Judge Taylor in The Belfry's "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Katelyn Maudlin as Mayella Ewell and Thom Johnson as Judge Taylor in The Belfry’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”


The action is presented on two very different sets. The first and final sections of the play are presented on a cheery five-door neighborhood arrangement that looked great and worked very well. However, the difficult middle scene requires a cramped and skewed courtroom arrangement to allow everyone into seats and tables, which works less well but suffices. Costumes by Marilyn Dearman and Barb Martin are well researched and designed, and deserve applause.

Above all that is presented by this production is the universal message of the central themes of Ms. Lee’s story – that intolerance and prejudices are ugly and wrong, that courage is a significant weapon against such matters, and that childhood is a time of learning lessons that we hold the value of for the rest of our lives. Ms. Crandall’s endeavor is of great value for all these reasons and should not be missed.

To Kill a Mockingbird continues at The Belfry June 7,8,13,14 & 15. Reservations are recommended by calling the box office at (317) 773-1085 or by going to http://thebelfrytheatre.com/ and using their online ticket service.

* Photos are from online sources

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