To Kill a Mockingbird, Metropolis Performing Arts Centre. Since many people have read Harper Lee's novel or seen the 1962 movie version of her melodrama, a good production must make dramatic what we already know is going to happen. Will we feel anxiety when a white mob assembles to lynch a black man? Will we be outraged when a white man falsely accuses a black man of assaulting and raping his daughter? Or moved by Atticus Finch's plea for justice from an all-white jury in 1935 Georgia? Will there be suspense when his young children are set upon on a stormy night and saved by the reclusive Boo Radley?
In this Metropolis production of Christopher Sergel's play, directed by Matthew Reeder, the answer is often yes. Reeder's staging doesn't always take full advantage of the play's dramatic possibilities--we don't see the courtroom reactions of key characters or the offstage attack on Scout and Jem. But innovative staging often creates immediacy, as when an angry, muttering mob makes its way down the darkened aisles or the townspeople sit in the audience, responding aloud to the trial proceedings.
There's no way to disguise the fact that this is an educational play with a mission. But for the most part the cast, especially the young actors, are convincingly human as they spout Lee's aphorisms about the evils of racism and the importance of understanding.