Until Sunday, November 22, you can catch the theater’s version of the controversial book. The play stars Shannon Harrington as Jean Louise Finch/Scout, Ezra Barnes as Atticus Finch and Aidan J. Lawrence as Jem Finch.
But don’t expect to hear any censored political statements. The unapologetic play is something special, commenting about America’s racial past but also shedding light on current situations in a subtle way.
Brooklyn resident Sophie Netanel, who eloquently plays the older Jean Louise Finch and the court clerk, was moved by the fact that Lee’s writings were still applicable today.
At the essence, it’s the classic story of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ and in this adaptation, the show starts off in 1958 with the older Jean Louise Finch remembering the tragic story of what happened in Alabama.
The play first happens behind Netanel as she tells the story and then it takes off into the haunting narrative of the book. Many of the actors’ lines came straight out of the book.
“The amazing thing about it is that I’m the narrator so I’m on the stage a lot of the time, and I get to sit and listen to everything that’s going on,” Netanel said. “Every time I listen to the words, I’m struck by how pertinent they are to current situations.”
“It’s amazing that what Lee was writing is still 100 percent relevant,” she added. “There are so many lessons that Atticus teaches the kids, Scout, Jem and Dill, as well as his relationship with Tom and Calpurnia — it’s really moving.”
She admitted that it sometimes becomes a bit too uncomfortable to watch because society is supposed to have evolved past these interactions but really there’s still so much hatred and prejudice out in the world.
It’s also interesting to see the vantage point of a child, which the play does so beautifully. Manhattan native James Bernard, who plays Dill, spoke about growing up to understand the events taking place in the play.
“At first, our characters don’t really know what racism is and it’s true that what happens makes them all grow up,” Bernard said. “They thought the world was so perfect but it really was not.”
There are people who call other people names, or they try to hurt other people, and it’s just not right,” he added.
Although the young man, the youngest cast member, has been in numerous plays, he dubbed ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ as “impactful.” The play isn’t just about changing from an actor’s point of view, but he found himself realizing what life was like back in the past days of America.
Bernard’s also noticed how other issues in the play, such as gun violence, is still a dangerous crime.
Still, even though he’s learned that there are negative influences out in the world, Bernard has also received his share of perks while working on the set. He joked that this was the first time he was ever given his own dressing room.
Managing Director for Queens Theatre, Taryn Sacramone, is impressed by each actor’s ability to bring a whole new interpretation to their character and the overall story. Even more so because the whole production became fully-formed in a short amount of time. Actors only began rehearsing on October 19th.
But she was equally as surprised by the simple yet dominating visual aspect of the show.
“The use of projections makes it a fuller experience than you’d expect, it just visually compelling so I think people would be impressed by it,” Sacramone said.
The chemistry on stage is something that is undeniable. Throughout the play, one often forgets that the acting isn’t real. Although there is a simple set representing the court house and town, it’s easy to get lost in this world. Your emotons tug at you as the innocent Tom Robinson, played by Elisha Lawson, undergoes a witch hunt and the Finch family is steadily faced with backlash. That’s because the actors truly respect each other and learn to pull out emotions.
You can purchase tickets, which ranges from $25 to $42, at www.queenstheatre.org or by calling the Box Office at 718-760-0064. Tickets may also be purchased in-person at the Queens Theatre Box Office.