Sunday, November 4, 2018

Inherit the Wind—Lakewood Theatre Company—Lake Oswego, OR



Planet of the Apes?

    The classic trial drama about the famous Scopes’ Monkey Trial of about 100 years ago in the Deep South, is written by Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee and directed by Antonio Sonera.  It is playing at their space, 368 S. State St., in Lake Oswego.  For more information, go to their site at www.lakewood-center.org

    It’s amazing how many issues are broached in this story.  It addresses religion vs. science, separation of church and state, Evolutionists/Darwinists vs. Creationists, and the freedom of Man to think for himself and to speak his mind.  We are still in some of those struggles even today.

    The story of the proceedings up to the trial are as engaging as the trial itself.  Reportedly, it was all a publicity stunt to garner some revue for this small, Southern town, so they arranged to prosecute an educator for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution to school kids, then informing the two giants of the law world, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, who were to duke it out verbally in court, which means that tourists from all over the country, as well as the news media, including the famous critic, H. L Menken, would swamp this burg and give its economy a much-needed boost.  And the stunt worked beautifully.

    The movie of it starred Spencer Tracy, Fredric March and Gene Kelly, as the three above-mention personas, and a TV adaption had Jason Robards, Kirk Douglas and Tony Randall portraying the same, both quite good.  (I even directed a production of it myself some years back at the Columbia Arts Center.)  And now we have this production, with two giants of the local theatre scene, Allen Nause as the Darrow in carnation, Henry Drummond and Todd Van Voris as the Bryan substitute, Matthew Harrison Brady, a match made in theatre heaven!

    The story has these two titans vying for the constitutional soul, perhaps, of Cates [Scopes] (Jim Vadala), who has dared to teach Darwin to young children in the Bible-belt part of the world.  His only real local support, his girlfriend, Rachel (Olivia Weiss), also happens to be the daughter of the town’s religious leader, Rev. Brown (David Sikking).  On the sidelines, reporting all this, is the newspaper critic, the cynical, Hornbeck (Ian Goodrich).

    But the real meat of the matter occurs in Act II, where Drummond is prevented from calling scientists to explain Darwin’s theories, so he’s forced to fight on the enemy’s own turf, and calls Brady himself to logically explain how things came about on this earth, using only the literal translation of the Bible.  Then the fireworks really begin.  And we, as a viewer/listener may have our own questions by the end of this confrontation.  At the crux of the matter is, perhaps, since God gave Man, Free Will and Reasoning Power, why should he be condemned for using them to think and speak as he chooses?

    This production is both powerful and touching and well-rendered onstage by Sonera.  All the supporting characters do well in filling in the landscape for this major battle.  Goodrich is convincing, as he paints for us the outsider’s perspective on these alarming events.  Vadala, a very talented actor in many productions, is appropriately baffled and at a loss for words, as the creator of this whirlwind of controversy.  And Weiss, as his love interest, is quite touching and believable as a woman caught between two worlds of thought and, although facing an awaking is, perhaps, the future product of a new way of thinking.
But the focus of this production is Nause and Van Voris and both are splendid! 

     They burn up the stage with their predictions of, perhaps, either biblical hellfire, or stoking the sparks of creativity.  It is a high mark in acting and should not be missed!  Van Voris, steadfast in his condemnation of even the thought of thinking “…those things he doesn’t think about.”  And Nause, using his wiles and wits, to expose hypocrisy and yet, willing to concede that there, indeed, may be “…more things in heaven and earth…than are dreampt of in [our] philosophy.”  Truly, it “must give us pause.”

    I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.
--DJS

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