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Theatre / To Kill a Mockingbird

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To Kill a Mockingbird is the 2018 stage adaptation of the novel by Harper Lee, adapted by Aaron Sorkin. The Broadway run was directed by Bartlett Sher with Scott Rudin producing. The original cast included Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch and Celia Keenan Bolger as Scout Finch. Ed Harris later took over the role of Atticus. Greg Kinnear was supposed to play Atticus after Harris' run, but then Broadway shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the play returned in 2021 Daniels was again cast in the role of Atticus.

All rise for the tropes associated with this work:

  • Aborted Arc: The Mrs. Dubose plotline goes much further than it did in the movie, but it doesn't reach the ending that the book did, and instead ends before Jem's final meeting with Dubose (the one where it's revealed that she was dying and had a morphine addiction). In the touring version, the resolution is moved to an off-handed mention from Atticus.
  • Actor Allusion: Atticus saying that "our darkest days are always followed by our finest hours" here is given an extra layer of self-referential subtext here, given that Sorkin had already used the line in The Newsroom, which also featured Jeff Daniels as lead.
  • Adaptation Deviation: As a Composite Character, Link Deas has much of Dolphus Raymond's backstory added to his character, with one key difference. While he still has children with a black woman, his past of his fiancee dying by suicide on their wedding day is omitted. Instead, the tragic part of his past is that one of his children fell ill, and died after he was refused aid due to his status as a biracial child. In the 2023 touring production, his fiancee's suicide is included.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The play gives more scenes with Calpurnia and Tom Robinson as well as a direct confrontation between Atticus and Bob Ewell.
  • Anachronic Order: The play opens with the "child" characters as adults remembering the events, and the story uses the trial as a Framing Device.
  • Batman Gambit: Atticus heavily implies that Bob was indeed the one who assaulted Mayella, knowing that Bob will kick up a scene and get himself thrown out of court, enabling Mayella to answer Atticus' questions more honestly. However, Mayella remains loyal to her father (although she does have visible regret after taking her seat again).
  • Beware the Nice Ones: After Bob Ewell shows up drunk in front of Atticus' house and taunts Atticus with Tom's "guilty" verdict, then threatens his family – specifically Scout, who he says must learn to use her mouth for "something other than yapping" – Atticus finally snaps and pins Ewell's wrists behind his back. Atticus then threatens to break both of Ewell's arms so he can't touch Mayella again before he snaps out of it. His rage also breaks through much earlier when he questions Mayella rather intensely.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tom Robinson dies after (supposedly) trying to escape from the police on foot and Atticus is thrown off his seat in the Alabama council after pushing an equal rights bill forward, but his relationship with Calpurnia and his children is strengthened and he has vowed to take a more active role in the fight for civil rights going forwards.
  • Casting Gag: Mary Badham, who played Scout in the 1962 film, plays her nemesis Mrs. Dubose in the touring production.
  • Character Development: Sorkin's stated goal when adapting the book was to create a story where Atticus, rather than being a perfect, contained hero from the start, becomes heroic as a result of the events. Specifically, Atticus starts out more passive towards the racism in Maycomb, and takes Tom Robinson's case not for justice, but because it was assigned to him. As the case goes on, Atticus becomes more focused on racial justice (especially after being confronted by Calpurnia), and by the play's end he's much more active in civil rights, to the point that he even tried to get an equal rights bill passed.
  • Composite Character: Link Deas and Dolphus Raymond are a single character in the play, with the name of the former but the latter's status as the town drunk.
  • Decomposite Character: The lesson to never shoot a mockingbird isn't one thought up by Atticus — rather, it was something passed down by his unseen father, as revealed in his closing speech.
  • Disabled in the Adaptation: Link Deas is portrayed as deaf in this version, communicating through a mixture of speech and ASL, with the kids translating.
  • In Medias Res: The opening starts at the trial before flashing back to the beginning of the original story.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Atticus removes his jacket and rather harshly cross-examines Mayella after his attempt to treat her kindly fails.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Both Ewells, naturally. Mayella even directly and unknowingly quotes some of her father’s earlier racist rant word for word, and Bob not so subtly threatens to set the KKK on the Finches.
  • Refuge in Audacity: To cover for Jem losing his pants, Dill says that they were playing strip poker. "They", of course, meaning "just the boys".
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Atticus muses to himself if the jury could possibly find Robinson guilty, then…
    Robinson: You gonna finish that sentence?!
  • Sassy Black Woman: Calpurnia, in spades.
  • Throwing Out the Script: Lampshaded by Scout in a line of dialogue.
    Atticus had spent all night working on that speech, tweaking it just about to perfection. You could see in his eyes the exact moment he decided to throw it all out.
  • World of Snark: Practically a requirement for a Sorkin production, with Scout and (surprisingly) Atticus having some standout zingers.