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Inherit The Wind

a Drama
by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee

COMPANY : Georgia Ensemble Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Roswell Cultural Arts Center
ID# 3957

SHOWING : February 24, 2011 - March 13, 2011



Georgia Ensemble Theatre proudly presents one of the greatest epic plays of the 20th Century. Inherit the Wind digs into the heart and soul of America in a timely search for perspective and enduring hope.

John Ammerman and Eddie Levi Lee lead a remarkable cast of over 20 in the theatrical event of the season.

Director Robert Farley
Henry Drummond John Ammerman
Elijah / Judge Justin Anderson
Mrs McLain Abby Avery
Townsperson / Hawker James Baskin
Mrs Krebs Jane Bass
Photographer / Scientist Jeffrey Bigger
Mr Goodfellow Lee Buechele
Mrs Brady Kara Cantrell
Dunlap Kevin Dougherty
Mr. Bannister Charles Hannum
Mayor Luis Hernandez
Phil / Scientist Barry Hopkins
Davenport Steven L. Hudson
Matthew Harrison Brady Eddie Levi Lee
Rachel Brown Eliana Marianes
Bertram Cates Chad Martin
E K Hornbeck Alexandros Salazar
Meeker John Schmedes
Reporter / Townsperson Bob Smith
Reverend Jeremiah Brown John Stephens
Sillers / Reuter's Man Thomas L. Strickland
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In Praise of Curiosity
by Dedalus
Monday, April 11, 2011
It’s been over eighty-five years since the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” trial in Dayton, Tennessee. John Scopes was found guilty of daring to teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in a Tennessee classroom. Although that guilty verdict was later overturned on appeal, the basic conflict between religion and science continues to this day -- there are five pieces of anti-evolution legislation pending in State Houses and Senates, only one of which has been (narrowly) defeated in committee.

So, it’s no surprise that Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s 1955 fictionalized play of the trial is sadly relevant after all these years. What may be a surprise is that Georgia Ensemble has mounted a fast-paced and vividly produced revival of the piece that works on every level.

Bertram Cates (the play’s John Scopes) is going on trial for teaching evolution in small-town Hillsboro. The town fathers have hired charismatic Matthew Harrison Brady (a fictionalized William Jennings Bryant) to prosecute. Baltimore journalist E.K. Hornbeck (a stand-in for H.L. Mencken) has hired agnostic attorney Henry Drummond (Clarence Darrow) to defend. In Act I, we’re treated to the circus-like atmosphere as Brady comes to town, spouting the “All-American” ideal of biblical infallibility and vowing to bring the full weight of the justice system down on the head of a teacher who dared to teach. Lawrence and Lee create a lynch-mob atmosphere in which any defense of Darwin or Cates is an attack on Mom, Apple Pie, and God.

In Act II, we’re given the actual trial in which Drummond fights against the obvious bias of the judge and the town, quietly extolling the virtues of reason and evidence. Dramatically, it’s a brilliant piece of writing that brings home the contrasting characters of Brady and Drummond at the same time it shows a lingering appreciation for the promise of American justice as well as its darker sides. When Brady accuses Drummond of trying to “destroy everybody’s belief in the Bible, and in God!” and Drummond angrily replies, “You know that’s not true. I’m just trying to stop you bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States!” we could be watching a C-Span debate from any of those five state legislatures.

Admittedly, a lot of the appeal of this play (for me) is that its politics are totally in line with my own, so those of a more Creationist (I’m sorry, “Intelligent Design”) disposition may chafe at its arguments. And, admittedly, the play makes a lot of points in the on-going debate between Science and Faith. There is one, though, I wish to talk about here. There’s an old sound-byte used by religion apologists that “Science explains how the universe works, and Religion explains why.” I’ve always bristled at this, thinking that Religion does NOT explain any “why,” it just tells a comforting story that stops people from -asking any further questions.

Drummond more or less makes this point when he questions Brady on Biblical inconsistencies and “tall tales”, such as the “wife” of Cain – “”If, ‘in the beginning’ there were only Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel, where’d this extra woman spring from?” When Brady replies that the inconsistency never bothered him, Drummond sarcastically replies, “It frightens me to imagine the state of learning in this world if everyone had your driving curiosity.” The point is that certainty begets lack of curiosity. Why ask when you “know?” Why learn when all “knowledge” you need is handed to you in a pile of Bronze Age documents? This, to me, is at the heart of the Science/Religion debate, and, I am fully in the “camp” of those who see the “awe and wonder” in the unknown, who always question why, and who live their lives shining tiny rays of light into the dark unknown that is our universe (or multi-verse as the case may be).

And I truly love this play because it is in the same camp.

A few things really help move this production along. Edited down to a rapid two hours, this production boasts two towering performances at its core. Eddie Levi Lee makes a welcome return to Atlanta with his larger-than-life portrayal of Brady. A man who exudes charisma from every pore, he sweeps into town and wins everyone over with his certain fervor and his fiery rhetoric. He truly sees himself as a knight in shining armor, battling the dragon of godless science. John Ammerman’s Henry Drummond is a perfect adversary, quiet and assured, intelligent and slow to anger. But when these two have their climactic Act II showdown, it’s like watching a battle between giants, an irresistible force meeting an unmovable object, and it is compelling to experience.

The large ensemble supporting cast is a marvelous compendium of types and faces, with no performance upstaging the others (or the stars). I liked Chad Martin’s quiet nervousness as Bertram Cates, and Eliana Marianes’ conflicted preacher’s daughter, Rachel. They succeeded in making believable characters caught up in a current of history that was too deep to swim and too strong to resist.

The design was an open stage with many lit-from behind “windows” and “doors” that translated into a hot town square and an even hotter courtroom. The lights were honey-amber in their warmth, making me feel the sweat oozing from the characters. And the music, churchlike at the start (well, plainsong-like) helped define the character of Hillsboro as a very churchlike community indeed.

“Inherit the Wind” has rightly become an American classic, spawning four film versions and countless revivals. G.E.T.’s production is a gripping and fast-paced argument that plays of ideas age like fine wine, and improve on repeated viewings. To pass it by is to risk being a fool to the wise of heart.

-- Brad Rudy (BK

A Breezy Inheritance
by playgoer
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Georgia Ensemble Theatre's "Inherit the Wind" tells a slightly fictionalized tale of the Scopes Monkey Trial. With one exception, its actors convincingly portray life in 1920's Tennessee during a scorching summer. The one exception is Chad Martin, who portrays Bertram Cates, the counterpart of real-life teacher John Scopes. In demeanor, posture, and clothing, he appears to be a modern-day American. In the 1920's, he would have had a more formal bearing.

It's the technical aspects of the production that have the most problems. Costumes tend to be a bit busy, and the lighting is busy and often intrusive. Its gridwork seems to echo the latticework of the set, which is entirely too breezy a look for a town sweltering in a heat wave. The slightly skewed perspective of the background and the orange-based color scheme of the spare set are striking visually, but do not serve the play particularly well. This is most glaringly obvious in Reverend Brown's church-like meeting that ends the first act. Almost everyone is clustered onto the upstage platform or its three stage-wide stairs, but the Reverend moves downstage onto the main stage at the end, and is almost hidden by the courtroom set pieces, which have been left in place. The distance and distracting foreground work against the immediacy of the scene, which would have been markedly improved by playing it on the lip or corner of the stage. Other blocking problems exist too, with John Ammerman (Henry Drummond) standing directly in front of Eliana Marianes (Rachel Brown) for long moments of a three-person scene.

Sound is the one technical aspect of the production that works consistently well. There's a microphone effect near the end that briefly sounds miked (and is supposed to), but that's the only sound approaching intrusiveness. The show starts with a lovely a cappella hymn sung by the massed group of the ensemble. Song echoes throughout the show, adding a slightly period feel to the proceedings.

Acting is all good. I question the casting of John Stephens as Reverend Brown, since he's a mousy-looking man who cannot convey a convincing sense of menace, but his role isn't large enough to make too much of a difference in the overall production. The passive indifference in the performance of Kara Cantrell as Mrs. Brady doesn't make too much difference either; it just puts her more into the background than she need be. The big roles are Matthew Harrison Brady, played by Eddie Levi Lee with just the right amount of bluster, and Henry Drummond, played by John Ammerman with humor, depth, and conviction. Alexandros Salazar also does well in the role of cynical newspaperman E.K. Hornbeck. His is probably the most difficult role to pull off in the show, but he manages to do so, helped by his somewhat dapper, citified costume.

The ensemble are really the backbone of the production. Most play multiple roles, and all add energy to the production, filling the stage with believable, consistent reactions to the ongoing action. They set the tone for the piece, both in their massed singing at the opening and in the street scenes that shortly follow. Many are faces familiar from local community theatre, and it's a pleasure to see their talents gracing a professional theatre. Perhaps one day they'll all have as impressive resumes as John Schmedes, who was my favorite in the show as Bailiff Meeker. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Solid show with great performances
by Hel
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I love this show as a whole. I love the message and the fight of science to be accepted into a society that is too wholly religious to suit me. I hope that reads in this review.
This was my first time going to Georgia Ensemble and will not be my last. The production, directed by Robert Farley, is excellent with some performances standing out, and others falling a little flat.
Matthew Harrison Brady portrayed by Eddie Levi Lee is masterful. He embodied the political blowhard to the hilt and I never had a problem believing in his convictions. His counterpart Henry Drummond played by John Ammerman started off slow in the first act, but when his part is truly highlighted in the courtroom, showed off his skills.
The rest of the cast form an ensemble that is not to be missed. I loved the addition of the townsfolk singing hymns which really lent to the realism. I found myself searching for their reactions to all this craziness that occurred in a small town in TN and was not disappointed to see their disgust at Drummond and the snarky EK Hornbeck played by Alexandros Salazar, and their adoration of Brady.
The set is simple which is a great choice I believe as it allows the viewers to amend the setting to a more present day example, I'm looking at you Texas Board of Education.
On the whole this is a wonderful production that shouldn't be missed. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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