Kristianne Kurner as Jean Louise (a grown up Scout) sits on the porch narrating, beginning with the summer of 1935. She speaks in an easy to listen to southern accent. She leisurely walks over to another house that appears lifeless with a tree that holds treasures in it. It turns out this is Boo Radley’s house.
The light focuses on Katelyn Katz as Scout and Dylan Nalbandian as Jem, a brother and sister walking home from school, presumably their last day. Kurner smiles as she watches the children—she is reminiscing about that summer. Another boy Matthew Mohler as Dill is staying with his aunt for the summer. After a bit of teasing, the three children make friends.
This is the set up for To Kill a Mockingbird at New Village Arts in Carlsbad, CA. Kurner’s narration keeps the production at an even pace and helps the audience to appreciate a child’s experience through an adult’s perspective. The child actors are natural and entertaining as they play getting lost in these inquisitive-about-their-world characters. There are veteran actors like Eric Poppick as Walter Cunningham and Mr. Gilmer. I honestly didn’t recognize him until he appears as the lawyer, Mr. Gilmer, who treats Tom Robinson differently than the others on the witness stand. Durwood Murray as Tom Robinson appears distressed, but when he takes the stand his demeanor is innocent and scared. He says he’s scared and trembles making the audience sorry for him. One of the most memorable characters is Mayella Ewell played by Lauren King. Even though she’s horrible at first because she lies, she’s so lovable. Her accent is like a poor, ignorant girl as she grimaces over questions from Atticus played by Manny Fernandes. In the end, the audience sympathizes with her because she is trying to survive her circumstance. Fernandes is another great actor seen at NVA in the past. He is stern but kind with everyone. His fairness is in his blood whether he is a lawyer or a father.
The audience had different reactions depending on the age. The twenty-somethings laughed easier while the older crowd listened a little more cautiously.
No matter the age, one of the take-a-ways is learned as Atticus teaches compassion to his daughter Scout. Tears in the audience showed it.
There is nothing like sitting in a small community theatre. What makes New Village Arts special is the dedication from the staff and actors. The acting is always phenomenal. Every show here embraces the human spirit. Through NVA’s growth they are using some of its space as rental spaces for artists. Stop by the art gallery during intermission.
To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee, dramatized by Christopher Sergel and directed by Kristianne Kurner runs from April 4-May 4, 2014 at New Village Arts in Carlsbad, CA. www.newvillagearts.org