As a stirring rumination on childhood memories and moral foundations, as well as the kernel of the push for introspection that would shove the Deep South from Antebellum oblivion to the skirts of the Civil Rights movement, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a substantial and powerful story renewed as a passionate play.
Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of Harper Lee's source material is powerful and vibrant, if a little long-winded for its own good. The flourishes he adds and moments he subtracts tend to revitalize the novel, adapting it to the 21st century.
Wielding a convincing cocktail of accent and mannerisms Melanie Moore thrives as Scout, the show's heart and soul as well as the projection of innocence that the surrounding characters strive to protect.
Most of the grandiose moments, of course, go to Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch. Channeling the delivery of Jeff Daniels in Sorkin's "The Newsroom," he stands in for the auteur's take on the conflicted moral crusader, who struggles with his tendency to favor passivity, weighed against his demands to topple injustice with all his might.
Steven Lee Johnson is a meek, aloof presence as a note-perfect Dill, and Justin Mark conjures a boastful Jem, making up for his insecurities with a feigned imitation of what he perceives to be manhood.
Also standing out is a stately performance by an autoritative David Manis as Judge Taylor, as well as the scene-stealing bubbling angst of Yaegel T. Welch as falsely accused rapist Tom Robinson and Jacqueline Williams as suppressed-rage simmering servant Calpurnia.
Several of the monologues boom with such power and precision that the audience reacted with spontaneous applause. At times, the court drama lifts to the raucous vibrance of a basketball game. When the judge bellows "All rise," it's not necessary. The spiritual effects of the play, accented by the music, lift spirits so high that the legs can't help but follow.
"To Kill a Mockingbird" plays at Centennial Hall through Jan. 22. Buy tickets here.