Theater Reviews

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The Lyceum Theatre, New York
Open run


To say that the current Broadway revival of "Inherit the Wind" is lamentable is to make no judgment about the quality of the production but rather its continued timeliness. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's classic drama based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, in which the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution was prosecuted as a crime, is as relevant as today's headlines.

This production features, appropriately enough, two theatrical titans in the leading roles of Henry Drummond (Christopher Plummer) and Matthew Harrison Brady (Brian Dennehy), the characters based on the real-life combatants Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. Watching Plummer and Dennehy square off, especially in their dynamic second-act confrontation, is as rewarding a theatrical experience as you'll have this season.

Director Doug Hughes' staging sets the mood as soon as you walk into the theater. Audience members are seated onstage, as if members of an extended jury. And a quartet of musicians regales the crowd with religious numbers suitable for a revival meeting.

The play, last seen on Broadway in a 1996 production starring George C. Scott and Charles Durning, is a still-powerful courtroom drama that, while it takes significant historical liberties, well captures the themes over which the trial was fought.

Plummer and Dennehy offer indelible performances as their iconic characters. Plummer, now rather visibly aged, conveys Drummond's sharp intelligence and biting humor with minimal affectations and maximum effect. Dennehy, his massive physical presence and booming voice perfectly suited to his role, conveys the compassion and moral fervor as well as the bluster of the Bible-thumping Brady.

Also fine is Denis O'Hare as the big-city reporter who comments on the proceedings like a cynical Greek chorus. Hughes has populated the stage with reliable veteran performers in the supporting roles, including Beth Fowler as Brady's supportive wife, Terry Beaver as the judge and Byron Jennings as the reverend whose daughter figures prominently in the trial.

INHERIT THE WIND
Presented by Boyett Ostar Prods. and the Shubert Organization
Credits:
Director: Doug Hughes
Playwrights: Jerome Lawrence, Robert E. Lee
Set and costume designer: Santo Loquasto
Lighting designer: Brian MacDevitt
Original music/sound designer: David Van Tieghem
Cast:
Henry Drummond: Christopher Plummer
Matthew Harrison Brady: Brian Dennehy
E.K. Hornbeck: Denis O'Hare
Reverend Jeremiah Brown: Byron Jennings
Judge: Terry Beaver
Mrs. Brady: Beth Fowler
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