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Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013

Sunset Playhouse Inherits the Wind

Elm Grove company gives strong performance of an American classic

Inherit the Wind
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Although modeled after the Scopes Monkey Trial, Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee’s Inherit the Wind is really about ideological polarization. The Sunset Playhouse’s production of the classic drama harnesses some of the play’s continued relevance to some really good performances.

Pushing the drama forward is Henry Drummond, a progressive big-city lawyer who has come to a small town to defend a schoolteacher on trial for the crime of teaching evolution. Michael Pocaro plays him with a deft sense of wit and remarkably intricate responsiveness to subtleties in the role.

Paul Troglia summons a suitable amount of conservative authority in the role of prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady. In Troglia’s performance we also see a politician at the end of his career, coasting on fame and past achievements and looking to maintain his relevance. Matthew J. Patten slices through with a pretty sharp performance as the slick journalist coming to town to cover the trial. The role may be marginal but thanks to Patten, it’s memorably marginal.

Sean Duncan rests at the center of it all as the teacher who stands accused. The role doesn’t give him much more to do than be sympathetic. To his credit, Duncan is shrewd enough to let the role be what it is. Allison Chicorel channels inner strength to the stage as his colleague and ideologically torn love interest Rachel Brown.

While the production itself doesn’t modulate the mood quite as well as it should, the pacing keeps everything moving briskly enough that it never loses sight of the heart of the drama. At Sunset we see two extremes reaching out to each other amid a circus of intellectual aggression.

Sunset Playhouse’s production of Inherit the Wind runs through Nov. 10 at the Furlan Auditorium. For tickets, call 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.