The Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of To Kill A Mockingbird opens on a darkened stage, with Megan Pearl Smith singing from the heart. Smith and her partner Sam Misner are a popular musical duo. They are also accomplished actors. And that blending of talents adds a new dimension to STC’s production of this classic American play, which is dotted with brief musical interludes, evoking life in rural 1930’s Alabama.
Megan Smith portrays the grown-up version of Scout in this production, while her partner Sam Misner picks guitar and plays small town lawyer Atticus Finch. He takes on the hopeless task of defending a young black man who’s been accused of “taking advantage” of a young girl, but who insists he didn’t do it. The young defendant acknowledges that he’s scared to be in court. The aggressive prosecutor shoots back “Scared to face up to what you did?” And the young defendant responds “No, scared to face up to what I didn’t do.” (The aggressive prosecutor accuses the young defendant of being “impudent.”)
Then Misner as Finch delivers the well-known and sensational courtroom speech about equality under the law, he is as cool as a cucumber, and as sturdy as an iron bar. Finch lays out his argument before the jury:
“There is one way in which way in which all men are created equal. There is one human institution which makes the pauper the equal to the Rockefeller that makes the stupid man equal to the Einstein. And that institution, gentlemen, is a court of law.”
It’s a great monologue, and chances are you know how the verdict goes. After all, Harper Lee’s novel has sold 30 million copies, and the movie version with Gregory Peck has been seen by millions. But there’s a whole new audience for “To Kill a Mockingbird” every decade, as a fresh generation of high school students encounters the story for the first time. And even though this tale is set 80 years in the past, in a place where segregation was the law, recent events involving race and society give it a very contemporary feel.
With solid acting and tense courtroom scenes this production is made even more compelling thanks to the original music performed by its lead characters. It’s a classic story from the Old South that can still hold contemporary audiences spellbound. And that, no doubt, is why the Sacramento Theatre Company keeps bringing it back.
The Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of To Kill A Mockingbird continues through Oct. 30.