He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart. –Proverbs 11:29
Since the 2016 election, theatres in the greater Portland area have stepped up to the task of asking their audiences to examine their beliefs, prejudices, and world views through the live performance medium. In Lakewood Theatre‘s latest production, Inherit the Wind, play-goers are invited into the world of free thinking and the repression thereof.
Written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the play is based on the 1925 Tennessee case known as the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, which pitted the famous attorneys William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow against each other in a small-town courtroom. Bryan, a Bible literalist, was the prosecuting attorney in the trial against a young substitute teacher who had violated Tennessee law by teaching evolution in a public school.
A fictionalized version of the Scopes trial, Inherit the Wind is set in the made-up town of Hillsboro, where high school science teacher Bertram Cates (Jim Vadala) finds himself in the clink for teaching evolution. Cates is engaged to Rachel Brown (Olivia Weiss), daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Brown (David Sikking), a Bible literalist if ever there was one. Rev. Brown brings Matthew Harrison Brady (Todd Van Voris) to town to prosecute Cates. Gadfly reporter, E.K. Hornbeck (Ian Goodrich) engages Chicago lawyer Henry Drummond (Allen Nause) to defend Cates, hoping to bring national attention to the case. Game on.
This play was written in the 1950s “to defy the McCarthy-era ‘witch hunts’, using the Scopes ‘monkey’ trial of 1925 as a parallel, a jumping-off place to help them express in dramatic form their passion about the right to think freely….”, says Robert E. Lee’s daughter Lucy Lee. Yet it could have been written yesterday. It invites us to step back from our prejudices and beliefs far enough to examine where the beliefs came from and to question their veracity. Inherit the Wind‘s message is not preachy. Rather, it is an intelligent look at the downside of tribalism in an entertaining format.
The play’s huge cast of 40 people is directed by Antonio Sonera, assisted by Sarah Andrews. Everyone has a valuable part to play, but the focus is the courtroom showdown between Drummond and Brady. Here, Sonera helps bring out magnificent performances from Allen Nause and Todd Van Voris, who play former good friends now pitted in an intellectual contest where each knows the other’s hot buttons and much is at stake.
Inherit the Wind runs through December 9 at Lakewood Center. It is suitable for middle-schoolers and up.