Rabbit forming

By CAROLYN CLAY  |  December 16, 2008

Another story of race in America is on stage at Wheelock Family Theatre in the form of Christopher Sergel’s serviceable adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-winning 1960 novel, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (through November 25). Merrimack Repertory Theatre artistic director Charles Towers’s adaptation of the adaptation, which was memorably produced by the Huntington Theatre Company, adds the adult Scout to the dramatis personae, allowing the narration a rueful adult component. In Susan Kosoff’s solid, presentational staging for WFT, the principal storyteller is the diminutive 10-year-old Scout of fifth-grader Grace Brakeman, who’s as cute as an overalls button but inevitably lacks gravitas. That falls to tall, gray, and handsome Voice of Frontline Will Lyman, climbing into the skin of Atticus Finch and walking around a bit (as the character would say). And Lyman (a friend of mine) does a fine job, underplaying the heroic if mild-mannered lawyer who defends a black man falsely accused by rednecks in 1930s Alabama. Lyman’s Atticus is a more bemused and brooding presence than Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, and he cuts the Rushmore component with the occasional, muted PDA for the kids. Kippy Goldfarb brings a natural frankness to moral voice of Maycomb Maudie Atkinson. Janie E. Howland provides a storybook set that neatly revolves from shady, nosy neighborhood to courtroom and back. Brakeman, though dangerously plucky, doesn’t turn into a little ham until she’s dressed up like one. And Lee’s message comes across fleet and clear.

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