‘Inherit the Wind’ is an enlightening experience

by David Dixon

Courtesy Henry DiRocco

It’s been more than 50 years since “Inherit the Wind” has been produced on Broadway and nothing about it has aged. Loosely based on the Scopes Monkey Trial, which included modernists debating fundamentalists about religious versus scientific information. Because controversy between creationism and evolution is never-ending, it gives the subject matter a timely as well as timeless quality.

Taking place in the town of Hillsboro during an unspecified year, a likeable school teacher named Bertram Cates (Dan Amboyer) is arrested for teaching his students about evolution. He is put on trial and two equally powerful attorneys lead the attack on both sides. The prosecutor is Matthew Harrison Brady (Adrian Sparks), a socially liberal but religiously conservative man who has no interest in giving Charles Darwin’s “The Descent of Man” a read. The criminal defense lawyer is Henry Drummond (Robert Foxworth), a complicated man whose friendship with Matthew turned into a bitter rivalry.

The excellent quality of The Old Globe’s production is evident throughout “Inherit the Wind,” which is powerfully acted and intellectually stimulating. Unlike director Adrian Noble’s visually engaging take on “As You Like it,” the emphasis of “Inherit the Wind” is placed mostly on the actors and the text from Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee.Foxworth is pure dynamite in his performance as Henry. From the moment he makes his grand entrance, which rivals Jay Whittaker’s opening monologue in The Globe’s “Richard III,” the seasoned performer commands every scene he is in. Plenty of rat-a-tat dialogue for him to sink his teeth into and his ability to show the positive and arrogant sides of Henry make Whittaker’s performance a real pleasure to watch.

Just as memorable in his portrayal of Matthew is Sparks, who stars in some of the most intense scenes in the performance. His views regarding religion are obviously close-minded, yet there are some key moments when he displays acts of kindness and poignant sensitivity.

Rousing plenty of dark, hilarious laughs is Joseph Marcell as the smart- alecky reporter for the Baltimore Herald, E.K Hornbeck. He, at times, is unbelievably mean-spirited, but like Foxworth and Sparks, adds well earned humanity to his character.

One reason the play works so well is because the playwrights are not trying to change the audience’s views about science and religion. They instead propose intriguing existential questions regarding the meaning of life, the Bible and evolution without getting preachy.

Aside from the main points of the trial, there are many other interesting themes going on. Even with an article in the program that gives away some of the plot, the resolution when Henry gets into an argument with E.K., for example, is a complete surprise. This is when Lawrence and Lee reveal that this is as much about morality as it is about the trial.

Noble has once again delivered another deeply satisfying accomplishment that is extremelyentertaining throughout. It would be wonderful if he comes back again next year to deliver some more unforgettable adventures.

Tickets and information about “Inherit the Wind” can be found at theoldglobe.org.