Though he is a fictional character, near the top of the list of the warriors in the fight against racism is Atticus Finch, the hero of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the most civilized man in Maycomb County, Ala., who takes on the twin evils of prejudice and injustice to defend a black man against the false accusation that he raped a white woman.
James Norris, sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully, puts his very own stamp on Atticus in the Argenta Community Theater production of Christopher Sergel's stage adaptation.
His performance Saturday night was mesmerizing, from the wise advice he delivers to his precocious daughter Scout (Gwen Selfridge, giving the show's second-best performance), right down to the moment he shoots a mad dog in the street near his house.
As in the movie version, the audience sees the story through Scout's eyes, both in her childhood and through her years-later memories (Fran Jameson enjoying her cohesive role as the story's supplemental narrator).
There really isn't a false note, though there are spots of overacting, in the ensemble cast, with particularly fine work from Ryan Allen as Scout's older brother Jem; Sagan Kinetic as Dill, the visiting kid from Mississippi (who in real life grew up to become Truman Capote); Miki Gaynor as Finch household housekeeper Calpurnia; Tricia H. Spione as wise neighbor Maudie; and Jermaine McClure as the defendant, Tom Robinson.
Colette Crochet kind of overdoes the timorousness of "accuser" Mayella Ewell until she actually gets going on the witness stand, which turns into a tour de force. Ben Grimes has just a moment in the limelight as mysterious and possibly homicidal neighbor Boo Radley, but gets extra moments as Boo's mean-natured father. Tom Crone overdoes the prosecutor's sneering just a hair. Shelton Harden as drunken Bob Ewell mostly evinces plenty of evil menace but also at moments slides into near-caricature.
Vincent Insalaco's direction is sure-handed from start to finish, though there are moments when the courtroom scene threatens to get out of control, even with the admonitions of the venerable judge (Hardy Peacock). The production does not soften any language, so be prepared.
The run continues at 2 p.m. today, 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday at the theater, 405 Main St., North Little Rock. For ticket information, call (501) 353-1443 or visit the website, argentacommunitytheater.com.
Metro on 04/22/2018
Print Headline: Mockingbird shows fight against racism