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"Inherit The Wind" Soars at GTC in Burbank

L-R, David Reynolds, Robbie Winston & Laurel Reese – Photo by Ed Krieger
L-R, David Reynolds, Robbie Winston & Laurel Reese – Photo by Ed Krieger

    If you are interested in a play about the conflict between science and religion look no further than Wasatch Theatrical Ventures production of “Inherit The Wind” running through March 16th at Grove Theatre Center in George Izay Park in Burbank.

     This is the story of Bertram Cates and his right to teach evolution to a seventh grade class, for which he was arrested. 

     It is a re-imagining of the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” where local (Dayton, Tennessee) physics and algebra teacher John Scopes went on trial for possibly assigning reading on evolution while substituting as a biology teacher, though he did not specifically remember teaching evolution.

    The trial  pitted two legal giants, Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow) for the defense against Matthew Harrison Brady (based on three-time Presidential candidate and leading Christian speaker William Jennings Bryant) for the prosecution, against each other for the first and last time.

     This is a play that not only stands the test of time, debuting in 1955, but can and has changed lives.

     It is a cry for freedom of speech while at the same time making a point for freedom of religion.

     It is a mesmerizing testament to the power of opinion and a person’s ability  to revolve around it. 

     The trial knowingly or unknowingly pushes humanity into the forefront while underscoring its vast importance.

  It asks the question: Are we simply pawns of  the majority or do we each as human beings have the strength of character of a Bertram Cates or John Scopes to express what we truly believe, think and feel regardless of the circumstances or outcome?

    The language by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee is bold, poetic, pragmatic and proud.  Never does the play stray into shark infested waters.  Every letter, syllable, word and phrase seemingly means something.  This is writing at its most vibrant and intoxicating.

     Kiff Scholl’s brilliant direction allows for 17 characters to do the work of 30.  It is subtle, to- the-point and down-to-earth.  Each character understands the importance of his or her role and acts it.  This is direction at its leanest and most powerful.

     Scholl has assembled a cast of brilliant actors that devour the meaning and importance of the play. 

     Standouts include:

     J. Richey Nash (E.K. Hornbeck) whose natural, free-flowing style is perfect for the part.  Nash seamlessly pushes the character to new heights somewhere between cynicism and effortless, brilliant wit.

     Mark Belnick (Drummond) whose belief in his character is so deep that he makes what could have been a lesser turn into one of great honesty, compassion and faith even though his character is considered ”faithless.”           

     Robert Craighead (Brady) who delivers a magnificent performance of such fragility, tenderness and strength that it almost steals the show. 

     Craighead’s voice and vocabulary are nothing less than beautiful, bountiful and big. This is an actor this critic hopes to see on the stages of Burbank and Los Angeles again very soon.

     But it is Laurel Reese (Rachel Brown) who steals the show.  Her sensitive and gentle portrayal of a pastor’s daughter caught between her feelings for Cates and her upbringing make for the tensest, yet most fulfilling moments of the play.

     Reese is wonderful in showing the trauma of a childhood embalmed in strict religion and takes us, the audience, on a rare journey into a character’s soul and psyche.       

    In the end, Wasatch Theatrical Ventures, which has most recently given us “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the NoHo Arts Center, should be given a world of  credit for even attempting this large of a production on the intimate but small stage at GTC.

     Yet in a stroke of serendipity and perseverance, the intimacy aids in getting the message of the play across and turns this historic tug-of-war into a successful and thought-provoking theatre masterwork. Were they alive today, Scopes, Bryant and Darrow would no doubt agree.

Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday Matinees at 3pm
Tickets: $25
Admission/Information: (323) 960-7721
Where: Grove Theatre Center (GTC) 
1111-B West Olive Ave. in center of George Izay park (across from baseball field) in Burbank
PARKING: Free ample street and lot parking off Clark

    If you are interested in a play about the conflict between science and religion look no further than Wasatch Theatrical Ventures production of “Inherit The Wind” running through March 16th at Grove Theatre Center in George Izay Park in Burbank.

     This is the story of Bertram Cates and his right to teach evolution to a seventh grade class, for which he was arrested. 

     It is a re-imagining of the 1925 “Scopes Monkey Trial” where local (Dayton, Tennessee) physics and algebra teacher John Scopes went on trial for possibly assigning reading on evolution while substituting as a biology teacher, though he did not specifically remember teaching evolution.

    The trial  pitted two legal giants, Henry Drummond (based on Clarence Darrow) for the defense against Matthew Harrison Brady (based on three-time Presidential candidate and leading Christian speaker William Jennings Bryant) for the prosecution, against each other for the first and last time.

     This is a play that not only stands the test of time, debuting in 1955, but can and has changed lives.

     It is a cry for freedom of speech while at the same time making a point for freedom of religion.

     It is a mesmerizing testament to the power of opinion and a person’s ability  to revolve around it. 

     The trial knowingly or unknowingly pushes humanity into the forefront while underscoring its vast importance.

  It asks the question: Are we simply pawns of  the majority or do we each as human beings have the strength of character of a Bertram Cates or John Scopes to express what we truly believe, think and feel regardless of the circumstances or outcome?

    The language by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee is bold, poetic, pragmatic and proud.  Never does the play stray into shark infested waters.  Every letter, syllable, word and phrase seemingly means something.  This is writing at its most vibrant and intoxicating.

     Kiff Scholl’s brilliant direction allows for 17 characters to do the work of 30.  It is subtle, to- the-point and down-to-earth.  Each character understands the importance of his or her role and acts it.  This is direction at its leanest and most powerful.

     Scholl has assembled a cast of brilliant actors that devour the meaning and importance of the play. 

     Standouts include:

     J. Richey Nash (E.K. Hornbeck) whose natural, free-flowing style is perfect for the part.  Nash seamlessly pushes the character to new heights somewhere between cynicism and effortless, brilliant wit.

     Mark Belnick (Drummond) whose belief in his character is so deep that he makes what could have been a lesser turn into one of great honesty, compassion and faith even though his character is considered ”faithless.”           

     Robert Craighead (Brady) who delivers a magnificent performance of such fragility, tenderness and strength that it almost steals the show. 

     Craighead’s voice and vocabulary are nothing less than beautiful, bountiful and big. This is an actor this critic hopes to see on the stages of Burbank and Los Angeles again very soon.

     But it is Laurel Reese (Rachel Brown) who steals the show.  Her sensitive and gentle portrayal of a pastor’s daughter caught between her feelings for Cates and her upbringing make for the tensest, yet most fulfilling moments of the play.

     Reese is wonderful in showing the trauma of a childhood embalmed in strict religion and takes us, the audience, on a rare journey into a character’s soul and psyche.       

    In the end, Wasatch Theatrical Ventures, which has most recently given us “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the NoHo Arts Center, should be given a world of  credit for even attempting this large of a production on the intimate but small stage at GTC.

     Yet in a stroke of serendipity and perseverance, the intimacy aids in getting the message of the play across and turns this historic tug-of-war into a successful and thought-provoking theatre masterwork. Were they alive today, Scopes, Bryant and Darrow would no doubt agree.

Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday Matinees at 3pm
Tickets: $25
Admission/Information: (323) 960-7721
Where: Grove Theatre Center (GTC) 
1111-B West Olive Ave. in center of George Izay park (across from baseball field) in Burbank
PARKING: Free ample street and lot parking off Clarkv


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