Inherit the Wind by the Episcopal Academy in Newtown Square, PA
November 7, 2017
Review submitted by Lizzie Dixon of The Agnes Irwin School
Due to recent events, we have become accustomed to the spread of false information, the strain of politics on relationships, and the struggle between traditionalism and progressivism. These issues and more are tackled in Episcopal Academy’s production of Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.
The play, an adaptation of the 1925 Scopes Trial, follows school teacher, Bertram Cates (the fictitious adaptation of John Scopes). Cates is charged with illegally teaching his students Darwin’s theory of evolution, and therefore contradicting the Christian belief in creation.
Episcopal Academy’s production was artfully executed. From the creative multi-purpose set to the realistic performances of the cast, every detail of the production was considered in an effort to transport the audience back to the suspenseful trial.
Henry Drummond (Jacob Viscusi), the defense attorney, carried himself with the presence of a lawyer and delivered difficult lines with ease. His emotions were readable and clear, both in his lines and in the silences between them, making his performance a highlight of the show. Matthew Harrison Brady (McKee Bond) tackled the difficult character of the religious prosecutor naturally. His performance was memorable, especially in Act Two as he transitioned from organized and personable to a distraught, overwhelmed man. Rachel Brown (Amalie Hipp) brought her sweet, confused character to life, filling her lines with emotion and clear internal struggle. Bertram Cates (Patrick Zhang) complemented Brown’s performance perfectly, playing his character as more reserved. These actors had chemistry and were delightful to watch together.
Notably, Rev. Jeremiah Brown (Cerena Robertson) and E.K. Hornbeck (Adelynn Anderson), both played by women, completely transformed into their roles. Rev. Brown used excellent variation of volume and vocal intonation. Her emphasis of specific words made her performance convincing. E.K. Hornbeck performed her witty lines with consistency and sarcasm. She especially shined in her final scene with Drummond. The ensemble all stood out individually. Each performer had a clear character reflected in their reactions. The performers admirably adopted a Tennessee accent, although some accents in supporting roles were not as consistent. The ensemble was professional and a clear highlight of the show, adding to the realism of the production.
The set was minimal but very effective. The pieces were skillfully made, including the banisters of the jury box and a multi-use table. Using the audience to represent the jury was an innovative use of the limited space, and period music for set changes reminded the audience of the setting. The lighting complemented the performers nicely, shining through in specific moments, such as the flash of a camera.
Overall, Episcopal Academy’s performance was very impressive and professional.
Review submitted by Maggie Lind of Westtown School
Chilling, gripping, and unmistakably relevant, Episcopal Academy’s Inherit the Wind left audience members stunned and introspective Saturday afternoon.
Based on the real-life occurrences of the 1925 Scopes-Monkey Trial, Inherit the Wind premiered in 1955, later to go on to inspire film adaptations and numerous revivals. After a local teacher, Bertram Cates teaches evolution in his classroom, American media descends upon Hillsboro, Tennessee, to make the courtroom the battleground of one of the greatest “Religion versus Science” debates in the last century. The play revolves around two lawyers, Matthew Harrison Brady and Henry Drummond, as they debate the role of evolution in American science textbooks, as well as the impact the trial has on the surrounding town. Used to represent the McCarthy trials in its original context, Inherit the Wind is poignant in most political contexts for its ability to make people question their rights and ability to think for themselves.
Episcopal’s production rivaled that of a professional theater through its ability to grasp challenging material and immerse the audience into believing they were witnessing a real judicial trial. The strength of the ensemble elevated the show immensely, as they used space and volume wisely while giving a necessary perspective of the community in the infamous case.
Creationist Matthew Harrison Brady, played by McKee Bond, embodied his role through commanding the stage every moment he was on it. Bond’s commitment to character choices, such as his convincing accent and booming voice, allowed the audience to fully believe that Bond was Brady. Equally moving was Jacob Viscusi’s portrayal of Henry Drummond, the evolution-defending attorney. Viscusi demonstrated his refined acting through lengthy and impassioned monologues which buttressed the entirety of the second act.
One of the most powerful performances of the production was given by Cerena Robertson as Reverend Jeremiah Brown, as she delivered a chilling sermon outside of the courtroom. Robertson’s diction and powerful movements had the audience on the edge of their seats witnessing the impact religion can have on a community. Compelling in a different manner was the relationship between forbidden lovers Rachel Brown, played by Amalie Hipp, and Bertram Cates, played by Patrick Zhang. Both actors evoked remarkable empathy due to their chemistry and emotional portrayals of betrayal and confusion.
Set designers Paloma Zozaya, Alex Peters, and Laura Lewis transformed the black box theater into a courtroom through their seemingly simple yet intricately versatile set pieces. Equally integral to the immersion of the audience was the efficacy and precision of set changes and prompt cues, all coordinated by stage manager Anjali Bose.
Ultimately, it was the focus and commitment of the cast and crew that made Inherit the Wind such a compelling adaptation of a story that needs to be told today.