There’s a lot of false-seeming piety going around these days, and I walked into Northlight Theatre’s “Inherit the Wind” looking for reassurance. The Scopes trial (a.k.a. The Monkey Trial) of 1925, on which the play is based, pitted creationism vs. evolution. Somewhere in the fog of my high-school memories was a faint recollection of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s play, and it promised a comforting worldview where logic and reasoning topple the spittle and dreck espoused in the name of religion. What I failed to recall was how corny “Inherit the Wind” really is, something Jessica Thebus’ production doesn’t exactly eschew, especially in the early, pre-courtroom goings. (Too often, it feels like a production designed for school groups.) But once the parties settle down for the courtroom smackdown, the show gains momentum exponentially. The vamping, the oratorical pyrotechnics—they’re all there in the performance of Tony Mockus, as the prosecuting attorney based on bible-thumping William Jennings Bryan. His self-serving ardor is offset by Scott Jaeck, in the role inspired by Clarence Darrow, giving a low-key but detailed performance that provides ballast and meaning to the story’s outcome. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.