OREM — The story of To Kill a Mockingbird is dear to the heart of anyone who took high school English. Who didn’t love Scout, look up to Atticus, and fear Boo Radley? With such a wide following, the classic American book is a challenge to live up to in any adaptation, but the Hale Center Theater in Orem has brought it to life beautifully.
The play begins with an introduction to our young protagonist, Scout Finch, through the eyes of a much older, grown-up version of herself as narrator. We follow the adventures of Scout, her brother Jem, and her friend Dill as they spend a summer learning some of the most important lessons of their lives. Atticus Finch, their father, leads through example as he takes on the cause of equality and justice in the courtroom, in a time and place where racial prejudices are still a major part of society.
The Harper Lee book is renowned for its ability to deal with heavy issues while still maintaining a sense of humor and warmth. This play does the same. Scout (Bailee Johnson) is impudent, rough, and adorable. Her impatience and childishness is charming and amusing and her curiosity mirrored mine as we both wondered at human nature and why things happen the way they sometimes do. She discovers many things about humanity and I discovered them with her. The adult Scout (Heather Jones) guided me through the events of her memory, leading me to the important questions and answers the story presents. Her gentle yet pointed narration serves as a perfect backbone to the action.
The stand-out performance comes from Mitch Hall as Atticus Finch. His quiet strength is palpable and his patience and goodness provides an example to the entire town, and especially to his children. As Atticus takes quiet moments to teach his daughter the right way to treat people, I could see his deep love for her and the desire he had to do what is right.
I really admired director David Morgan’s skill as each scene smoothly transitioned into another. The connections of Scout’s reminsicings are quite natural and yet served to help me think more deeply about the issues of equality and justice, compassion and respect. Lessons for Scout and the audience are presented in a way that moves the story along while still being poignant and individual.
The set itself was intimate and compelling. The Hale Center Theater is small, but scenic designer Bobby Swenson used every inch perfectly. In all scenes, but especially in the courtroom scene, the set brings the audience in as part of the action. All become townspeople there to observe the proceedings and decide for themselves what is just. The intimacy of the cast and audience is a serious force for driving home every profundity.
To Kill a Mockingbird in all its forms provides insights to the human soul and the Hale Center Theater in Orem continued this tradition beautifully. I walked away with more wisdom than when I came and I have them to thank.