The town prayer meeting is a highlight. As the sanctimonious Rev. Jeremiah Brown (a perfectly creepy Robert Elliott) preaches the crowd into a frenzy and calls down the wrath of God on their enemies, Stern, in a marvelous visual comment, has the townsfolk de-evolve before our eyes, their so-called "religion" turning them back into apes.
What a delight to see a crowded stage at the Rep! They don't write plays like this anymore, demanding a company of more than 40 actors, and such plays don't get produced much, either. The entire ensemble deserves notice, especially Whit Reichert, Jerry Vogel, Mark Mocahbee, Paul Hebron and Dane Knell, who plays the overlooked but very important role of the judge with such aplomb that one suspects he must really be a small-town judge posing as an actor. Young Emma Longworth-Mills helps introduce Drummond with a hilarious bloodcurdling scream, and Jill Tanner is good as the long-suffering Mrs. Brady, although it would have been nice to see more evidence of their relationship.
Joneal Joplin (left) and Philip Pleasants in the Rep's Inherit the Wind
Continues through Nov. 4 314-968-4925
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Loretto-Hilton Center, 130 Edgar Rd.
Kristine A. Kearney's costumes are excellent, right down to the period hosiery, and Karen TenEyck's backdrop is no less than a re-creation of Michelangelo's "The Creation," with God reaching out to touch the county courthouse. The show begins with the fluffy white clouds above the town turning ominous with a subtle shift of Peter E. Sargent's excellent lighting, which also makes us feel the 97-degree weather in the cramped courthouse.
There's a terrific scene at the end of Act 1 when the two old friends, now adversaries, meet face to face for the first time since arriving in town. Brady asks Drummond how they've moved so far apart. Drummond, quoting yet another scientist, says that all movement is relative; perhaps it's Brady who has moved away just by standing still. Joplin drops his mask for a moment and considers this, then walks off sadly; then, in a wonderful piece of direction, Drummond moves upstage, stops at the "Read your Bible" sign and seems to consider what he's lost in his forward movement. It's a question that's still important in this Information Age: We know more than at any time in history, but what has it done to our souls?