Inherit the Wind Review – The Monkey Trial Revisited

John Douglas Thompson and Alfred Molina in INHERIT THE WIND - Photo by Jeff Lorch
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INHERIT THE WIND has had a long and stunning career following its debut in 1955 in Dallas, Texas, followed within three months with over 800 performances on Broadway. The play was revived two times on Broadway and was adapted to film in 1960, 1965, 1988, and 1999 – with the earliest movie starring Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, and Gene Kelly. Now INHERIT THE WIND comes to the Pasadena Playhouse in its latest adaptation for the modern audience.

To quote Danny Feldman, Pasadena Playhouse’s Producing Artistic Director, “INHERIT THE WIND does not pretend to be journalism. It is theater. It is not 1925. The stage directions set the time as ‘not too long ago.’ It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow.  Written as a response to McCarthyism and inspired by the Scopes trial, Lawrence and Lee’s extraordinary play is about freedom of speech and thought.”

John Douglas Thompson and Alfred Molina (center) and cast – Photo by Jeff Lorch

The circus may not be coming to the small town of Hillsboro (in Kentucky or maybe Tennessee), but an even bigger attraction is set to begin. Three time Presidential candidate Matthew Harrison Brady (based on William Jennings Bryant and played by John Douglas Thompson) will soon be trading barbs with Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow and played by Alfred Molina) in the trial of the century. Bertram Cates (based on John Thomas Scopes and played by Abubakr Ali) is a public school teacher who is on trial for breaking a State law which forbids teaching any theory of creation other than that which is outlined in the Bible. And E.K. Hornbeck (based on H.L. Mencken and played by Chris Perfetti) is there every step of the way to make his cynical and sarcastic evaluations of the proceedings.

Rene Rivera, Brian Cali, Alfred Molina, Thomas Hobson, John Douglas Thompson, David Aaron Baker, Abubakr Ali, and cast – Photo by Jeff Lorch

This is a duel of titans – men who were once the best of friends – and their clashing ideologies. Molina and Thompson offer striking interpretations of Bryant and Darrow, friends who have grown so far apart that they seem to be on separate planets. Skillfully helmed by director Michael Michetti, their opposing ideas create lightening in the skies above Hillsboro as science also ends up on trial. Each member of the huge cast offers a very special something to the story. As passionately harmonized by the Hillsboro residents, “That Old Time Religion” still lives and breathes in this small community.

Cast of INHERIT THE WIND – Photo by Jeff Lorch

Brad Enlow’s scenic design sets the stage for the trial in a broken down courthouse which needs some serious TLC. Sara Ryung Clement’s costumes remind the audience of the play’s historic roots. Omar Madkour’s lighting and Jeff Gardner’s sound blend with Darryl Archibald’s vocal arrangements to produce a pleasantly upbeat slice of Hillsboro’s life and times. The cast and crew of INHERIT THE WIND got in just right. The 2023 adaptation makes the old story fresh and new, thought-provoking, and especially relevant for today’s society. INHERIT THE WIND is highly recommended.

Chris Perfetti – Photo by Jeff Lorch

INHERIT THE WIND runs through November 26, 2023, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays (no performance on Thursday 11/23/23 or at 7 p.m. on Sunday 11/12/23). The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101. Tickets start at $35. For information and reservations, call 262-356-7529 or go online.

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