Updated: Mar 10
The war rages on
By Paul Atreides
Author, playwright Theatre critic at EatMoreArtVegas.com
In a stroke of luck—yes, luck—Majestic Repertory Theatre had to look for another venue to mount their production of Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee’s 70-year-old Inherit the Wind. Why was that lucky? Well, because of the reason behind it: Hedwig and the Angry Inch is doing so well that Artistic Director Troy Heard wanted to extend it. But wanted to present Inherit the Wind as planned.
As luck would have it, Vegas Theatre Company (VTC) had an opening in their schedule and the two companies are now collaborating so the production could hit the boards on schedule.
The play centers around an actual event in 1925 that has been labeled the Scopes Monkey Trial. The script may be old but the subject matter is right up to date. The religious right’s claims of a “war on religion” battle the left’s claims of belief in science. In this case, the evolution of man. The war rages on and you thought all this was new.
Under the direction of Heard, the production holds up. He’s made great use of the space provided, staging it in the round. For the most part, he’s led his cast of 22 well.
The standouts, of course, are the two battling men (Erik Amblad as Henry Drummond and Taylor Hanes as Matthew Harrison Brady) who argue for the right to think for oneself, be that religion or science. If you don’t know the outcome of that trial, you’ll find no spoilers here.
Both Amblad and Hanes command the space. At times they bluster, at times they bellow but at all times they’re both so embedded within their characters that to believe them is to simply open your eyes and watch. These two are actors who use their entire instruments, from head to toe.
Glenn Heath as Rev. Jeremiah Brown is a perfect match. Heath is studied when he needs to be and purely in-the-pulpit-on-Sunday-morning as he leads the ensemble of townspeople—a sort of Greek chorus.
Eager to watch the circus unfold, as some talking heads do today, is E.K. Hornbeck, a newsman who arrives in town before the trial. Bringing truth to the journalist, Joe Basso is a joy to watch as he verbally jabs at some of the townspeople as well as the trial participants for the sheer fun of getting a reaction he can put into print.
One actor stands out and shouldn’t. Sherri Brewer as Mrs. Krebbs draws focus when she should be blending in as part of the ensemble, particularly in a scene where Rev. Brown is preaching. The cast sings, mostly softly, on entrances and exits but Brewer’s soprano is such that it stands out well above the rest of the chorus and carries across the room with a vibrato she hasn’t learned to control.
Some actors haven’t quite learned to project and remain in the moment. As a result, when their backs are to a segment of the audience, they cannot be heard. The actual trial took place in Tennessee. According to the program the play is set in “A small town,” and the townspeople's dialects are rather all over the place. Throughout the show, special effect haze is used; at times it’s overly heavy, but rest assured it is not harmful.
Despite some faults, I encourage you to go and see this. Not only as a lesson in how history repeats itself or, as credited to writer and philosopher George Santayana and in its original form, “Those who cannot remember the past are likely to repeat it.” But attending this play is a great way to celebrate the success of the one that drove this to VTC’s venue.
What: Inherit the Wind
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday – Saturday through April 2
5:00 p.m. Sundays
2 p.m. Saturday, March 25
Where: 1025 S. 1st St., Suite 110
Tickets: $20 - $40 (www.theatre.vegas)
Grade: **** Delicious
Producer: Majestic Repertory Theatre; Artistic Director: Troy Heard; Director: Troy Heard; Set Design: The Design Ninjas; Lighting Design: Darren Simmons; Sound Design: Jake Harrell; Costume Design: Candice Wynants; Stage Manager: Zachary Kyser