Triumphant and Moving: To Kill A Mockingbird at Pasadena Little Theatre

Categories: Stage

Mockingbird.jpg
The set up:
Remarkable stagecraft, consummate acting, and skilled direction blend together to create a memorable production of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Pasadena Little Theatre. The ambiance of a small, sleepy Southern town is effectively created in its introductory first act, while the drama of a black man on trial in white man's territory is brought to vivid life in its explosive second act. The story may be familiar to those who read 1960's Pulitzer Prize, best-selling novel by Harper Lee, or saw the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, winner of three Academy Awards, including best screenplay by Horton Foote.

The execution:
The acting is of the first order - Wes Linnenbank as Atticus Finch creates a nuanced portrait of an intelligent, caring and dedicated man, both as attorney and as a father. The other three central characters are his young daughter Scout (Elizabeth Tyska), his young son Jem (Anthony Martino), and a visiting child named Dill (Lorenz Nicholas Lopez) - all are excellent and each finds an authentic portrayal - this is crucial since the first act revolves around them. The villain of the play is the abusive, alcoholic Bob Ewell, played powerfully and convincingly in an electric performance by Gregory R. Brown. Luci Galloway captures beautifully the challenging role of his teen-age daughter, trapped in a web of deceit. In minor roles, Sue Beth Fry has great comic timing as a neighbor with a judgmental streak, Renee Van Nifterik portrays Atticus's housekeeeper with style and charm and Mark Stanley captures the gruff exterior and warmer heart of a Southern sheriff.

Others stood out in the cast of 20: Isaiah DeJohnette as the accused, Fulton Fry as Judge Taylor and Mark C. Connelly as a poor farmhand. The direction is by Grace Galloway, assisted by Julie Owen, and is admirable. They have overcome to a large extent the flaws in the script. The play is an adaptation by Christopher Sergel of the acclaimed novel, and its slavish adherence works against the inherent strengths of the stage. Having a mature representation of Atticus's daughter serve as narrator interrupts the flow of drama, the brief shift from the trial to show the children's reactions breaks the courtroom suspense, and the long epilogue blunts the arc of the narrative. Sergel should have been less of an acolyte, and more of an editor, yet he has served us well by bringing the work to the stage.

The verdict:
The fine acting and direction, helped by Joel Rodriguez's inspired set that made the audience part of the jury, overcame all obstacles to generate a triumphant, moving and most-satisfying evening, making this production one not to be missed. There's nothing "little" about this theatre.
Through July 3, Pasadena Little Theatre, 4318 Allen Genoa Rd., Pasadena, 713-042-1758.

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Pasadena Little Theatre

4318 Allen-Genoa Road, Houston, TX

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28 comments
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bedrock48
bedrock48

One negative internet comment review and the place goes ballistic...Stickbardo claims to be a PLT viewer for more than 35 years. Great! Wonderful! Glad you've come out for so long and are supportive of community theater. If Stickbardo writes one negative review as a 35-year viewer, then perhaps members at PLT should take it into consideration. However...it's just one opinion out of many that have seen the show. Others like the show. Others LOVE the show. Others don't care for the show. If by community theater, we mean "circling the wagons to retaliate against any negative feedback," then we are not an inviting community. Stickbardo's comments were not the most kind...but criticism is part of the theatrical process. We shouldn't insist negative reviewers "stop coming to our theatre." Not everyone will like the show and we shouldn't expect them to.

Stickbardo
Stickbardo

Thank you for all of your responses to both of my posts.  Since you clearly have no idea as to what I'm talking about I guess there's no point in posting again.  Peace and Love.

DJB
DJB

Owning an Equity card does not make a person a professional actor.Owning an Equity card does not make a person a valid critic.It simply gets some people in some doors where others cannot go.Thanks for your opinions, Stickbardo: they are simply opinions of one person. None of us are truly going to take to heart what you've said, unless it is downright rude or mindless garbage, nor do we pay very close attention to what stage critics say when they do not base their opinions on fact or give a valid reason for the sharp criticisms: for they are only opinions based on the perception of one person on one given night in one given chair. However we are people: people who let their emotions show when a critic or person giving an opinion gets personal/emotional or steps beyond the boundaries of opinions... i.e. "attacking". I assume this is why so many people have felt the need to contact you.I shrug it off as just another blog that will soon be forgotten. We have proof that we are doing our jobs well. Or the people viewing our productions would not be giving us standing ovations on every single night; open to the public and even some shows that were not open to the public. DJB

Sportzmonkee58
Sportzmonkee58

Owning an Equity card doesn't make a person a professional actor?  Really?  You mean all those years I spent working for it were for naught? All the dues I pay is just to get into the paying gigs ahead of you?  Hold the phone!  Isn't that what makes me a professional and you an amateur?  I have an Equity card.  I get in the door first because I am a professional.  I get in ahead of you, if you get in at all, because you are an amateur.  Equity card = Professional.  Do you see?  I don't know Stickbardo and I don't want to get into this back and forth.  I didn't get to see your show because I can't get down to Pasadena now but from the review I am sure it is great.  But don't talk about things for which you have no knowledge. Nobody gets into Equity without paying for it with the kind of sweat that I doubt you would understand.  And I don't want to hear about how hard it is in community theatre.  I was there once.  Break a leg.

Sportzmonkee58
Sportzmonkee58

If you were a professional as your moniker indicates you would know that one doesn't "buy" membership in Actor's Equity.  So, are you putting me on? :-)  There are basically only three ways join Equity.  Be offered an Equity contract with a signatory company, be a member of an affiliate 4-A guild as a principle or through the EMC program at a professional company.  None of these options are geared toward the amateur or "non-professional" who do not have any sort of body of qualifying work.  And no, the twenty-five shows you did at every community theatre in town does not count towards membership.  So, as I stated before, the body of professional work that must be done to even get to being eligible to join Actor's Equity places the typical Equity member far above the amateur.  And I question as to how hard amateurs really do work.  If you look at the kind of shows done in community theatre they tend to be the easy ones.  Comedies, farces, that sort of thing.  Nothing particularly challenging as an actor.  If you really want respect as an actor get your theatre to put an occassional show on that you can actually do some acting in.  Not being "snarky".  That's just the way it is.

ProfessionalActor
ProfessionalActor

Wrong, Sportzmonkee58. Owning an Equity Card does not all the sudden magically transform a person, who is an amateur for example, from a non-professional actor status into a professional actor status... I think, and please correct me (again) if I'm wrong: that it takes, perhaps Study or Experience? Otheriwse, by golly, I'm going to go out today and buy an Equity Card! :-) Amateurs who buy Equity Cards are not professional. You are just an amateur with an Equity card who now believes you are now professional. Theatre is hard work: professional or non-professional, no doubt. I agree on that one! I never said otherwise, or am I wrong again? :-) Have a great day!

Stickbardo
Stickbardo

Interesting comments all.  Who would have thought a few simple observations would create such angst and name calling.  First things first.  That whole "attacking the children" nonsense is a straw man argument plain and simple.  Nobody attacked anybody.  So what is really bothering you?  A critic who doesn't love every moment you are on stage?  I don't know the person who wrote the review for the Press but he was more than kind.  I never said the show was awful.  I said the show was good and merely pointed out the flaws that your friend the reviewer did not.  Be glad you didn't get Everett Evans in there to write a review.  You call me a snob because I like good theatre and invite me not to come back.  I have been coming to shows there for over 35 years and have been saddened by the continuing decline of the quality of shows of what used to be a powerhouse theatre.  I support community theatre all over town with my donations and patronage and will continue to do so and that includes PLT so don't you dare presume to disinvite me because of a critique of one show.  Many of the actors were good but could have been much better, including "the children", if the directors were doing their jobs.  I offer up a few critiques and instead of attacking me did any of you ever once say to yourselves "maybe it is too dark upstage so the actors can't be seen" or "maybe that makeup on Boo doesn't look right" or "that last scene maybe needs to be slowed down."   I have seen this at other community theatres before.  You don't do shows for the audience anymore.  You do them for yourselves.  You aren't a theatre.  You are a gang and anyone who doesn't belong better stay away.  Shame on you.  By the way Judge Taylor, I have trod the boards in Chicago and New York and proudly carry my Equity card.  Is that triumph enough for you?

Kreeddrama
Kreeddrama

So, I guess we will never discover the true identity of the mystery patron, stickbardo.  I guess it's best left as a mystery.  We would most likely only be disappointed with an actual name. 

The PLT gang has open enrollment with 7 first time PLT actors in this production alone.  The gang initiation is at the auditions.  

My friend Fully is right, we have worked very hard to develop a loyal audience at PLT and we don't do that by instulting them the way you did, stickbardo. " If you are a regular patron of PLT you will not be disappointed."  Yes, Fully called it, "snarky!"  But then again, you claim to be a "regular patron of PLT."  "I have been coming to shows there for over 35 years..."  Hum!  Is that a clue?  The suspense is delightful.

One last comment, maybe you could learn to develop a filter where children are concern especially in community theatre.

Mingthemerciless02
Mingthemerciless02

In retrospect, I should likely not have commented on your comment.  I was zealous to protect young Miss. Tyska, Mr. Martino, and Mr. Lopez, because I think they are young actors of limitless potential.  My other exposure to the screenname Stickbardo was a comment concerning a Stage Door production of Sweeny Todd, which I found similar in tone to your review here.  Then as now, you had some useful critique, but I found the tone a little on the condescending side. If I had it to do over again I would have given your critique "all the consideration it deserves" as doubtless you do when you are onstage.

I am o.k with your calling us a gang, though I would use the term family.  You critique our show selection as pedestrian, then you say we are performing only for ourselves without considering our audience.  I assure you sir, if we were performing only for ourselves you might see a somewhat different season, but some of our season ticket holders like "Community theater top 25" and we exist to serve them (and you).  Of course, if you would like to improve our programming I encourage you to submit 3 plays to our playreading committee. 

Anyway, for my part I am sorry you didn't like our opinion of your opinion.....I think you could have expressed some of your more interesting points with 30 percent less snark and wouldn't have seen much in the way of "retribution" (THE INTERWEBZ IS SERIUS BIZNESS).

Given my druthers I would rather we had pleased you more completely, and you had joined in a chorus of unqualified praise....since that didn't happen, we didn't hurt your life and you didn't hurt ours.  So the only thing I can do now is to try to please our last 3 audiences starting tonight.  Good luck in your endeavors, break a leg.

Fully/Judge Taylor

LG40
LG40

It was determined that the Sweeney review and stickbardo are two different people.

redy
redy

well, I know who wrote the Sweeney review, and I know that person hasn't seen this show yet. so, let's please be careful judging where we don't know all the facts.  Thank you Stickbardo for your comments, even where others don't agree.

Kreeddrama
Kreeddrama

Who are you, redy?  I love blogs, the open forum for opinion is great!  But I hate the fact that you get to be sneaky and not tell us who you are.  You want "all the facts" so do I.  Who are you?

Theresa Spencer
Theresa Spencer

My extremely talented and beautiful niece plays "Scout" in this production!! So proud!!

Wes
Wes

It couldn't have been that bad, Scout gave me a father's day card.

Jokoclc
Jokoclc

Say what you will, there is no argument with standing ovations for EVERY show open to the public.  The kids are fabulous and how small of Stickbardo to say negative things about a child.  That is just petty and sad.  The entire cast is fabulous and it has been a joy to be involved in this production as the Assistant Director, Julie Owen. 

Mingthemerciless02
Mingthemerciless02

Katie is right..she has a small role in this play...but has carried other plays with her brilliance. I play Judge Taylor in this excellent production and I too would have ignored the commentary were there not children involved.  All I can say here is, those that can....do...those that can't write snarky internet commentary...How about it Stickbardo...when was your last triumph onstage!

LG40
LG40

I enjoyed the show. I thought it was well done and was deserving of a good review. However, I had disagreements with minor details of staging and some of the acting as an audience member. But...it is not my show to direct. It was still an entertaining show, and I hope many people get to see it in its final weekend. It has been a success for PLT...and being a community theater, that is something everyone can be proud of.

Tim Latta
Tim Latta

Congratulations to Wes Linnenbank from the Latta Family!  Way to go.

Jdaughtry1
Jdaughtry1

If you are fond of dissection and micro directing.......read Stickbardo comments.  He will provide both.  If, however, you are looking for a fun evening, a very good production, great character actors and strong leads, see this show!

oneg
oneg

Correction on the telephone number for reservations:  713-941-1758.  Thursday, June 30, is sold out!

Stickbardo
Stickbardo

As far as PLT fare goes Mockingbird was a better than usual effort for this little theatre which prefers the community theatre top 25 of Neil Simon, murder mystery, and melodrama.  Wes Linnenbank showed great effort at portraying Atticus but fell a bit short in exhibiting a real relationship with Scout.  The words came out and the attempted expression was there but the true feelings were not coming out making the character somewhat cardboard.  Elizabeth Tyska as Scout.  A pleasant attempt by a girl too old for the part and too green as an actor to play the part of Scout; a girl groping to understand events way beyond her years.   Lorenz Nicholas Lopez as Dill showed his obvious musical theatre roots.  Gregory R. Brown as Bob Ewell was a stand out performance as was Renee Van Nifterik and Sue Beth Fry.  This theatre with its thrust stage placed too much of its action upstage with the cast clinging to the set pieces.  This created a particular problem with the climactic ending and the entire cast huddled upstage in the dark.  The direction was average for community theatre.  Many great moments were lost.  The Cross examination of Mayelle by Atticus deflated like a balloon.  The cross examination of Tom Robinson by the prosecution had the prosecutor walking all over the theatre talking to the audience instead of enjoying the great dramatic moment there.  I know what the director was attempting but it failed.  The narrator sitting in the audience stumbling over lines in a notebook?  What was up with that?  The worst I think, was blasting through the moment at the end when Scout sees Boo for the first time; this great tender moment, and it takes place, at warp speed, in the dark, upstage, with the actor playing Boo made up to look like a ZOMBIE!!!  It is ok for community theatre. If you are a regular patron of PLT you will not be disappointed.

Joann Levine
Joann Levine

That was my diary in trying to remember it all so I could do the one thing Atticus wanted me to do. My lines were not in the book.  I know them, I don't need to read them.

Jokoclc
Jokoclc

Sorry, just one more comment to stickbardo.  When was the last time you actually were at Pasadena Little Theatre???  We haven't done a melodrama in many, many, many, many years.  duh

flutesp
flutesp

This isn't your first nit picky review, is it? You know you should really consider being a little more tasteful in your reviews. It's one thing to mention that a certain actor wasn't necessary your favorite, but when you attack the actor or director, it's to the point where it's rude. THAT'S what people always get so furious when you write reviews. These people worked their butts off for that show whether you liked it or not, and you really should take that into consideration next time you decide to write another review. 

I see you, yourself, have a show that you are directing soon. Looking forward to seeing it since you seem to have such high expectations for a community theater. When I attend your show, I will be expecting something on the professional level because that's what you seem to think community theater should be.

LG40
LG40

I don't think stickbardo "attacked" anyone. I think they gave an interesting opinion on the show. Not everyone will like the show or how it is done. What matters is that PLT has consistently had strong audience attendance that may lead to stronger audiences throughout the rest of the season and beyond. Having this show be a success may also prod PLT into doing more drama productions.

Kreeddrama
Kreeddrama

If you, stickbardo, are a regular of PLT (which I don't think you are) please stop coming to our theatre.  We do not want your type of snob in our audience.   You're right, we are a community theatre and have never claimed to be anything else.  Although most of us work at various day jobs to support our hobby of theatre, we've manage to consistently entertain the true "regular patrons of PLT" for some 57 years including the full houses and standing ovations for this current production.  Now, I wasn't going to respond to stickbardo's negative reflection on our production; after all, everyone is welcome to have their own opinion, but he/she attacked the children.  These are three extremely talented young actors who do not deserve to be cut to pieces by an obviously bitter person.   My name is Katie Reed and I play the very small part of Stephanie Crawford in PLT's production of To Kill a Mockingbird.   I am an English teacher at Clear Lake HS with a masters degree in theatre and a BFA in Acting from UT Austin with an extensive theatre background including some very modest work in NYC.  So, who are you, Stickbardo?  Who attacks children incognito.  My advice to you stickbardo is to stop searching for flaws and start to enjoy your theatre experiences for the positive instead of the negative.  You'll get a lot more out of the price of your theatre ticket. 

Skippy
Skippy

Interesting opinion.

Susu12
Susu12

This is a very good show. The actors are superb,the Director and Assistant Director are great and the show is very moving. If you miss this show, you are missing a great show. Make your reservations quick.

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