Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players shine in “Inherit the Wind”
Sitting third row in Thompson Theatre, I was eager to see the Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players (REP) performance of “Inherit the Wind.” The REP is the university’s theater company, and its showing of “Inherit the Wind,” a play based off of a famous trial in Tennessee by screenwriters Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee.
“Soon after the 2016 presidential election, ‘Inherit the Wind’ occurred to me as a must for the REP,” Sanford Robbins, the play’s director, says.
The play follows the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial, which occurred in Dayton, Tenn., in 1925. The trial revolved around a science teacher who was teaching evolution, which, at the time, was against the law. Former Secretary of State and three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan was the prosecutor, while famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow represented the teacher.
Many of the themes in the play are still relevant today, such as the political polarization of science, but the names of the original attorneys have been changed.
The play was more comedic than its film — and real-life — counterpart, with Baltimore journalist E. K. Hornbeck (Mic Matarrese) providing witty quips and comebacks in every scene he appears. His humour continues throughout the play, and is a definite highlight. Henry Drummond (Lee E. Ernst) also provides injections of humor as the defense attorney during the trial sections of the performance, with smart replies to the haughty prosecutor, Matthew Harrison Brady (Stephen Pelinski).
Pelinski plays Brady extremely well, with the convincing charm and candor of a politician. One of the play’s best moments transpires when Brady interrupts a hateful sermon by Reverend Jeremiah Brown (Hassan El-Amin) to spread the message of peace.
There are several fantastic monologues given throughout the play, with the preeminent one given by Drummond after the jury selection scene. But most main characters, including Brady, Cates (Michael Gotch) and Rachel Brown (Kristen Alyson Browne), have important monologues that are each enjoyable in their own right.
Set design was one of the only downfalls of the play, with the jury bench remaining on-stage for the entire duration of the play. The “READ YOUR BIBLE” banner was a great addition to the set, however, and provided character to the otherwise dull design.
The play, overall, carries itself with humor while remaining topical and political. The choices made by Robbins pay off, and the performances by the REP are exceptional. The company’s performance of “Inherit the Wind” will run until March 24 at Thompson Theatre.