“He who troubles his house, inherits the wind”… It may sound Shakespearean, but the line is uttered by Mathew Brady, a character in the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee masterpiece drama “Inherit the Wind”, now onstage at the Lowell Davies Outdoor Theatre.
The insightful drama is the third production being performed in repertory, as part of the annual Old Globe’s Summer Shakespeare Festival, which kicked off on June 3rd and will perform through September 29th. “Richard III” and “As You Like It” complete the trio of plays available to patrons at the venerable Balboa Park theatrical complex.
Artistic Director, Adrian Noble takes over the directing chores for this production. In the hands of the “boss”, the Lawrence and Lee story based on the famous 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” in Tennessee, and the issues that divided a nation come vibrantly alive once again. The question of when does a segment of a secular society in the Twentieth Century accept the findings of science and Darwin’s theory on the origin of the species, when those facts conflict with their religious beliefs and dogma going back hundreds of years? It may be a mouthful, but that’s the central issue in Lawrence and Lee’s play. It’s a thorny issue for believers and non-believers alike; and it still isn’t fully resolved.
The story revolves around Bert Cates (a solid and appealing Dan Amboyer), a local schoolteacher who is on trial for teaching the tenets of Darwinism to his class of young students. The prosecutor for the state has hired Mathew Brady (a marvelous Adrian Sparks) one of the country’s most famous lawyers and orators to lead the prosecution’s case. Brady has few equals in courtroom oratory, and his well-known, rock-solid, public and personal positions on the absolute verites of the Bible is legendary. It looks like a slam-dunk for the state.
With the sensationalism that comes with a hot-button issue such as the “monkey trial”, and the public’s insatiable appetite for news, the Baltimore Sun newspaper decides to hire one of the leading trial lawyers of the century for the defense – Henry Drummond (the equally marvelous Robert Foxworth) the “heathen” attorney of Chicago… Game On!
The production is intelligently and deftly directed by Noble, who gives, not only to the principals, but to his supporting players their many moments to shine in this well-crafted production. The showier part goes to Sparks. His Brady is a study in bluster, and the sureness of his position as the defender of the faith in rural America. He’s a joy to watch as we wait for the inevitable fall from grace. Sparks has never been better. Brady is a part he was born to play.
Not to be outdone by all of Brady’s bluff and bluster, Foxworth’s understated, and razor-sharp portrayal of Henry Drummond is like watching a cobra, patiently waiting for the right moment to strike. One can almost feel Brady’s biblical armor beginning to melt under the withering scientific-based attack of Drummond’s interrogation. Foxworth and Sparks together make for wonderful theatre.
Standouts in this well-paced show are Vivia Font as Rachel, Happy Anderson as the Mayor, Charles Janasz as Rachel’s zealot-like minister-father Reverend Brown, Joseph Marcell as E.K Hornbeck, the cynical reporter covering the trial and the circus-like atmosphere, Bob Pescovitz as the trial judge, and Jaques C. Smith as Mr. Meeker.
The technical credits at the Globe are always first-rate. The scenic designs for all three rep productions are functional and creative thanks to Ralph Funicello. I especially liked his design for “Inherit the Wind” utilizing a series of tables and chairs which, when rearranged, act as multiple sets and locations in the production. I suspect director Noble’s fine hand in that decision, as well. Alan Burrett’s lighting and Deirdre Clancy’s costumes, along with Lindsay Jones’ sound design, and Steve Rankin’s fight choreography give the entire show a solid, rural look and feel.
“Inherit the Wind”, runs through September 29th. Call the box office at 619-234-5625 or go online at www.oldglobe.org .