Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Westmoreland Players - Inherit the Wind

Reviewed by Linda Goodman

May is a lovely month to visit the “Rivah”, and the Westmoreland Players have just made the trip even more enticing by mounting their production of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s courtroom drama Inherit the Wind this month.

Inspired by the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, Inherit the Wind is high drama. The courtroom scene in the second act had me on the edge of my seat, holding my breath, even though I have seen the show several times and knew what was going to happen. The directing, staging, and acting of the Westmoreland Players production is that good! That is the beauty of live theater: different directors and actors bring different talents to the table. No two productions are ever the same.

Mathew Harrison Brady, council for the prosecution, is often portrayed as a one-dimensional buffoon, but Robert Crown skillfully softens Brady’s unshakeable faith by investing him with intelligence and compassion. Whether you agree with him or not, you admire this man who preaches forgiveness alongside obedience; who, while fighting to imprison a local school teacher for teaching Darwin, would counsel a preacher to be tender towards a rebellious daughter.

Don Kenefick, who plays council for the defense Henry Drummond, rises to the challenge of Crown’s bigger than life Brady. The audience can almost see the quick thinking taking place in Drummond’s brain as the judge turns away all the expert witnesses for the defense. Kenefick plays Drummond with a subtlety that makes the inevitable clash between these two titans all the more delicious.

Chad Lewis as Bertram Cates, the defendant, and Christina Thompson as Rachel Brown, his colleague and supporter, break hearts as they try to navigate the uncharted territory between love and duty.

Jason Strong as the cocky Baltimore Sun journalist E. K. Hornbeck, is a man with an ax to grind. How dare these small town yokels challenge science! Strong left me with an image of Hornbeck shaking the dust off his boots as he sprinted back to civilization.

Bob Wilson made the arrogant and self-righteous Rev. Jeremiah Brown an immovable fortress of faith. Not even the pleas of his beloved daughter could sway him from his course, though one could see his heart breaking at her betrayal.

There were several talented children in this cast, but Ray Rubio as Howard Blair, witness for the prosecution, was so natural and likeable on stage that I forgot he was acting.

Glenn and Joy Evans, directors, producers, and designers for this show, revealed a keen eye for set decoration and costuming (I wanted to buy Rachel’s wardrobe). Though there were many actors on a small stage, the set never seemed crowded. Credit is due to the Evans for selecting the marvelous cast and for directing with such sensitivity. Talented actors in the hands of skilled directors are always a treat on stage.

Inherit the Wind will be on stage at the The Players Theater, located on route 360 in Callao, Virginia, through May 23. For performance dates, times, and prices, visit www.westmorelandplayers.org, or call 804-529-9345.

For those of you living outside the Northern Neck area, please know that I travelled 2 hours to see this show and my sister travelled 4 hours. We both agreed that it was well worth the drive.

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