Ross Valley Players' Heartfelt "Mockingbird"

Brigid O'Brien, Steve Price and Katrina Horsey in 
To Kill a Mockingbird at Ross Valley Players

The powerful and yet sensitive stage version of the great American classic, To Kill a Mockingbird opened Friday, November 11, 2011 at Ross Valley Players. This is an outstanding production from the marvelous casting, to the brilliant staging by James Dunn, the wonderful set and the time perfect costumes.  

To Kill a Mockingbird was born as a book by Harper Lee which won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1960. Horton Foote wrote a screenplay based on the book and used the same title for the 1962 film adaptation.  It is important to note, particularly for the fans of the movie, the stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel (1970) more closely follows the book.

Veteran Actress and Director Mary Ann Rodgers plays Jean Louise Finch (or Scout) who is the narrator of the story and we witness all of the events through her eyes. She is onstage all the time either speaking to the audience, listening or observing. She looks back on her life as Scout during the summer of 1935 in Maycomb, Alabama.  

On Saturday night, November 12 when this play was reviewed, the young Scout was played by Katrina Horsey who is alternating with Brigid O'Brien who played Scout on opening night.  Katrina Horsey's Scout was both focused and chipper. Scout Finch lives with her brother, Jem (sensitively portrayed by Gerrit deBlaauw) and their widowed father, Atticus (portrayed by Steve Price in an amazing performance).  Atticus is a prominent lawyer and the Finch family is reasonably well off as compared to the rest of society. One summer, Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill (played by Layne Ulrich in an excellent performance).  

Atticus is a lawyer who has been assigned by Judge Taylor (played with appropriate authority by Alex Ross) to defend a young black man, Tom Robinson (in a moving performance by Wendell H. Wilson), who has been accused of beating and raping a white woman (a hysterical Melissa Bailey).  This is the pre-integration South, a time when black people had few rights.  In Tom's trial, for instance, the Sheriff, Heck Tate (played by Ray Martin) constantly calls Tom "boy" even though he's a married man with three children and a steady job. Atticus, on the other hand, treats Tom with respect. In his impassioned final speech to the jury, Atticus stresses that an unbiased court system is the very foundation of American society and that every person is entitled to a fair trial.  Outstanding performances are given by Frederick Lein as the scurrilous Bob Ewell, father of the girl who accuses Tom, Anne Ripley as Mrs. Dubose, the crabby neighbor, Wood Lockhart as the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Gilmer, Sumi Narendran who plays Calpurnia, the Finch's housekeeper with care and apprehension, and Jeffrey Taylor as Boo Radley, a mysterious neighbor.

Director James Dunn has put together an excellent show. The first act is mostly exposition and introduction of characters. The performance moves quickly leading up to the famous court room scene in the second act.  In Mr. Dunn's capable hands, the play, at all times, lives up to its potential with good pacing and tense delivery.  

The real star of the show is Atticus Finch, the father and lawyer whose high morals set him apart from the rest. Steve Price's Atticus was so natural, he did not seem to be acting. 

David Apple has created a wonderful set and Michael A. Berg's costumes fit perfectly in the Depression era. To Kill a Mockingbird continues at Ross Valley Players through December 11, 2011.  Thursday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. (no performance on Thanksgiving).  

Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre is located at Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross, CA.  

For reservations, call 415-456-9555 or go online for further information at

Flora Lynn Isaacson