In 1970, Christopher Sergel adapted Harper Lee's Pulitzer prize-winning novel about racial strife in Depression-era Alabama for the stage, and it has since been performed by theater companies large and small all around the world. So closely does it hew to the novel (and to Robert Mulligan's 1962 film), it's more-or-less critic-proof, unless the company presenting it is so awful that the material sinks into amateur embarrassment.
Such is not the case with Actors Co-Op's new production at the Crossley Theatre in Hollywood. It's well-mounted, with a number of assured performances, and for those who love the book and film, it's a way of enjoying the material all over again.
This is certainly a labor of love for director/scenic designer Gary Lee Reed and producer Beth Castle, as there are literally hundreds of elements to monitor in the production—evocative lighting and sound, multiple actors, and the setting itself—the fronts of the various homes in the neighborhood where Atticus Finch lives with his children, Jem and Scout. There are no surprises here—if you love the film, you'll enjoy this stage recreation, down to the incidental music extracted from Elmer Bernstein's original score.
But there's some real talent on display in the performances. Greg Martin makes for an authoritative Atticus. Also enjoyable is Joanne Atkinson as the plain-spoken but perceptive Miss Maudie and Letecia Moore as the Finch's maid, Calpurnia. Montelle Harvey resonates in his short but crucial scene as the falsely-accused Tom Robinson.
And here, the conceit of the adult narrator sharing the stage with her younger self really works, with Liz Randall as the adult Jean Louise speaking Lee's beautiful prose and fondly gazing at the other characters...beloved ghosts of her memory. Young Albert Bursalyan and Zoe Calamar, as Jem and Scout, also impress.