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REVIEW: To Kill A Mockingbird at The Black Box Theatre


I’ve read the book, I’ve seen the movie, but I have never before seen the superb stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, – and I can’t emphasize enough just how superbly adapted it is. Although it’s been several years since I’ve read the book, this adaptation captures succinctly all the seminal moments of the novel.

 Just in case you need a little brush-up the story is set in 1935 Alabama. Atticus Finch is the small town lawyer appointed as defense counsel to the African-American, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell. The story is told through the perspective of Finch’s precocious daughter, Jean Louise – nicknamed Scout. Key to the story is Scout’s brother, Jem, their friend Dill Harris and the reclusive and mysterious Boo Radley. Scout’s worldview is shattered as she witnesses the ugliness resulting from the town’s racism.

 In the iconic role of Atticus Finch is the always impressive James Driscoll. Driscoll has a long and prestigious acting résumé in the Quad Cities. He has tackled some of the most envied roles in American theatre, many of which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and this is by far and away the best I’ve ever seen him perform.

In the pivotal role of Scout is Sophia Kilburg who exudes a childlike naiveté extraordinarily well, especially since she is a 2023 graduate of the University of Iowa portraying a character who, at the beginning of the novel, is six years old and who in this production is just as tall as her father; her brother Jem, per the novel, is 10 years old. Here Jem is played by Kilburg’s real life younger brother Tatum, a senior at Davenport Central High School. Does their age and size challenge the ability to suspend reality? Yes, somewhat, but this is an adaptation after all and their performances are so well done that those anomalies melt away.

 In order to advance the action, Sergel expertly employs the use of a narrator, the Finch’s next door neighbor, Maudie Atkinson. Long time acting veteran, Yvonne Siddique nails the role. I also want to give a shout out to Pleasant Valley High School sophomore, Will Emerle, who, as the youngest member of the cast, not only gave an excellent performance in the role of Dill Harris he far outshone the adults with his ability to project.

 Co-Directors Tristan Layne Tapscott and Savannah Bay Strandin have gifted us with a deeply thought provoking production that literally draws us in by employing the audience as the jury at Tom’s trial by bringing up the house lights during the closing arguments aimed directly at us and by marching Tom out of the courtroom directly in front of us after the verdict. Chilling.

 To Kill a Mockingbird continues at The Black Box Theatre Thursday through Saturday, May 23 through 25 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, May 26 at 2:00 p.m.


I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.