30 May 2004

Life is a highway

So I've had my mom's car around for the past two weeks in order to facilitate travelling back and forth to my parents' place to visit my recently hospitalized father. His current lifestyle of bedrest further accounts for why they don't need both of their cars right now. So far it's been nothing but a headache since I've had no real use for it and I've accrued $45 of parking tickets in my vain attempt to hide it from the Cambridge meter maids.

This afternoon, after watching a particularly depressing Sox game, my urge to get some use out of this car and my desire to get outside on the first sunny afternoon in a week plus some general wanderlust made me jump in and start driving north. I ended up taking a lazy tour of several of the nice communities of the North Shore, including Wenham, Essex and Gloucester. Just as I was crusing through my favorite nook of the lattter, Rocky Neck, I saw that the Gloucester Stage Co. had a show up tonight: To Kill a Mockingbird. "Why not?" I asked myself. I went in and inquired of the very cute box office manager (in my deepest, sexiest voice) whether any tickets for that evening's performance were to be had. After receiving an affirmative and smiling dashingly I purchased one adult ticket for the cheap-o price of $15. Even cheaper than the Somerville Theatre Coop!

The play was a part of the Gloucester Stage Conservatory, a nascent program of the now 25-year-old theatre, designed to bring young actors to the stage and help them get a leg up in that tricky industry. I had never seen this particular adaptation of Harper Lee's novel, and I haven't read that in quite some time either. Those of you who know me well will know that I usually remember almost none of the details of books or movies I've experienced more than a few months ago, so this was practically a fresh story for me. Now might be a good time to re-read the book, for this very reason.

The acting was a mixed bag. I got the sense that many of the older actors weren't professionals, but more community-theatre types who enjoyed the chance to be in a fairly well produced show in a pro theatre. The young, burgeoning pros were impressive 'cross the board. And the very young—Scout, Jem & Dill were sharply precocious. The standout performances were by Mayella Ewell, Tom Robinson and Maudie (the old neighbor who serves as narrator in the play—not sure what her role in the novel is). Mayella's only scene of substance is her testimony in the courtroom, which the actress rendered with heartbreaking authenticity (despite the actor playing Atticus bumbling through the scene as if he wasn't sure where he was). The guy playing Tom Robinson (listed in the program as "M.C. Spice") was the only one who convincingly rendered a country-folk Southern accent. The girl who played Maudie was marvelous. She captured her character's body better than anyone else, with a slight hunch that made a 23 year old girl a 63 year old woman (her face was a bit too fresh, though). Plus she managed to salvage a few of the poignant moments in the script, since the guy playing Atticus generally railroaded over all the others with the same bland disposition from start to finish.

So all in all a very nice show made fun to watch by talented actors. All the better when coming as a random distraction on a sunny Saturday.

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