As timely today as when it was written, Inherit the Wind looks at a close-minded society that fears freedom of speech and independent thinking, preferring instead to live hermetically sealed inside a lockstep mentality. Featuring a terrific cast and creative staging, the production emotionally reveals that while time has moved on since the play’s 1955 premiere, society and critical thought mostly have not.
Based on the actual 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, the play examines the fight between faith and science as two renowned attorneys (Mark Belnick and Robert Craighead) battle over a teacher’s (Robbie Winston) right to teach evolution in the local high school.
Strong performances dot the moving and thoughtful production. Belnick’s rumpled Everyman Henry Drummond passionately defends freedom of speech, while Craighead’s unctuous, flamboyant Matthew Harrison Brady preaches the Gospel. Alan Brooks’ judgmental, harsh Reverend Brown overwhelms his tender daughter Rachel (Laurel Reese). J. Richey Nash brings sarcastic smarminess to big city journalist E.K. Hornbeck. Timing and pacing are mostly spot-on, with a few occasional baubles.
Director Kiff Scholl creates striking visual tableaus by blending lovely design and staging evoking sepia-tinged nostalgia for simpler times. Michael Gend fine lighting effects capture the trapped nature of the community’s citizens, with Shannon A. Kennedy’s rich costumes demonstrating formality and constricted thought. Matthew Richter’s wonderful period music and sound work add an emotional, humanistic touch.
Inherit the Wind remains rousing and relevant today with its riveting, thought-provoking look at the age-old conflict between science and religion.
Wasatch Theatre Ventures presents Inherit the Wind Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through March 16 at the Grove Theatre Center, 1111-B W. Olive Ave. in the center of George Izay Park in Burbank. Tickets cost $25, and can be purchased at plays411.com/inherit or by calling (323) 960-7721.