I thought it was pretty clear that lot of Harper Lee's prose was reproduced exactly. An older Jean Louise Finch shares the stage with the younger actors and as she narrates you can hear Lee's voice.
And it's such a wonderful story that Lee tells. About community and racism. About personal courage and personal cowardice. About innocence ... lost.
The staging by Berkeley Playhouse was also quite beautiful. There was a massive woodcut of a tree as the backdrop, with some sort of screen behind it that glowed with a variety of colors. In the first act, as Scout and Jem enjoyed their final summer of innocence, it was lit bright oranges and purples, and you could feel the sun-kissed days streaming by forever. Then we opened the second act on the trial of Tom Robinson, and a black curtain was pulled up behind the tree. It receded when the trial did, but the bright colors were gone. The backdrop was now gray, lighting up to a somewhat vibrant blue only when Bob Ewell tried to murder the kids. The wonderful staging made me appreciate the wonderful structure of the book even more, because you could see how that trial was the dividing point between innocence and maturity, as Scout and Jem were brutally thrust into adulthood by it.
The actors were great too ...
But the whole play was surprisingly subdued. It was offered as a quiet story, and that somehow felt appropriate, because it let the harsh edge of this story cut through. But it did keep any of the actors from being able to step out and really excel (though Jem managed to overshadow the stage at times).
Anyway, great book, great show. We actually didn't attend the last show for once (because I'll be in New York next Sunday), which means it's still showing for another week. And it's highly recommended.
The play made me want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird, which I don't think I've read since high school. Shockingly, I don't think we have a copy of this book in our house, despite it being one of the top books from American literature.
However last year I decided I had no interest in alleged sequel Go Set a Watchman. I don't really care about the hi-jinx involved in its publication, and whether Lee approved it. I lost interest when I learned that it assassinates Atticus Finch's character. Then I lost even more interest when it came out that the publisher was purposefully misrepresenting the book, and it was just an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. I generally don't feel the need to see the early drafts of any of the books I love; the polished, published one is good enough, thank you.