Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch talking to Melanie Moore's Scout Finch (Photo by Julieta Cervantes)

Arts and Entertainment

Aaron Sorkin’s play adaptation “To Kill A Mockingbird” gives the novel new life

Famous playwright Aaron Sorkin flips Harper Lee’s Novel on its head, highlighting the best (and, in some places, the worst) parts.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/karnj335/" target="_self">Judd Karn</a>

Judd Karn

November 22, 2022
A couple of months back I had the privilege to see “The Book of Mormon” live on Broadway, and just recently I was able to see “To Kill A Mockingbird” at Hollywood’s Pantages theater during a humanities field trip.

The play, written by the legendary Aaron Sorkin — writer and Oscar-winner for “The Social Network,” “Moneyball,” and the play “A Few Good Men” and its movie adaptation — covers the trial of the falsely convicted slave Tom Robinson, and chooses to have main characters Scout, Jem, and Dill recall the events of the play as the narrators of it, providing further commentary and transitions in moments that needed it.

This narration allows for the fragmented structure style to exist, patching the jumps in time with explanations from the three. In the novel, the court scene was one continuous portion of the novel; however, the play — in the interest of the reader’s enjoyment — supplements it with scenes that took place prior to the court session. The fragmentation was virtually a necessity as without it the court scene would have run for an hour and a half.

The court scene itself was incredibly engaging with Atticus Finch, played by Emmy-winning Richard Thomas, given additional dialogue and personality. This still remained faithful to the incredibly moral Atticus of the novel, with a die-hard philosophy of being nice to everyone. There were some cases in which some of the actors made the scene a bit too melodramatic, namely Arianna Gayle Stuck’s Mayella Ewell, who quadrupled the energy of everyone else in the courtroom which drew me a bit out of the play. But other than those few moments of over-dramatic dialogue I was captivated.

The one questionable aspect of the play for me though was Scout’s (Melanie Moore) choice of accent. It was a faithful 1930s Alabama accent but it brought about a fairly large dilemma for me: is it better to be faithful to the content even if it distracts from the play and the message itself? In my opinion, I think it would have been much better if Moore made the accent significantly less apparent and would allow the audience to focus more on her acting itself.

In some scenes, Atticus is nearly-satirized by characters and Atticus breaks his strict moral code in one scene. Some students saw this as out of character for Atticus but I think it was necessary to the play and added some extra depth to the character. In the novel, he is just a moral compass but here he has relationships with his family and takes vital actions. The fact that Atticus is not perfect adds to this depth.

One portion that didn’t add any depth, though, was the scene where Jem stomped on all of Mrs. Dubose’s flowers. In the novel, it is taught as an extremely important lesson for Jem, who learns about Mrs. Dubose’s momentous challenge she is trying to overcome, and Jem begins to have a relationship with Dubose after promising to read to her every day as an apology. Jem is gifted a camellia, the flower he destroyed, which represents that he learned to regret his actions. In the play, however, he just stomps the flowers and — due to the less amount of content you are able to put into a play — is told he should not do it because it is bad and that you should see it from her shoes. The play does not have enough time to drive home this point, thus making it fall short.

The camellia stomping scene felt unnecessary and could have been used to build up any of the main characters more, especially Boo Radley who definitely could have been used more to develop all of the main characters.

Going into the play I was not sure what to expect of the production, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the props and transitions were on par, or in some cases, better than “The Book of Mormon’s” production and same with the acting (mostly). Entire interiors were built up in seconds and enthralling and emotional speeches were given in nearly every scene.

I implore anyone that has the opportunity to see this play to do so, the show at the Pantages Theatre sadly ended on November 27th, but the tour will return to the LA Metropolitan area at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa from December 27th to the 8th of January.

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