“He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart.” This quote, taken from Proverbs 11:29, is the inspiration behind the title “Inherit the Wind,” the 1955 courtroom drama by Lawrence and Robert E. Lee which is currently receiving an emotionally gripping production at the Vagabond Players through February 4th.
Directed with focus and intensity by Sherrione Brown, “Inherit the Wind” is based on the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial” where a high school science teacher in Tennessee was put on trial because he dared to teach Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution despite the disapproval of the religious community.
The multi-layered characters include Matthew Harrison Brady (portrayed with plenty of magnetism by Jeff Murray), a three-time presidential candidate and nationally known attorney; Henry Drummond (in an intelligent performance by Tom Howley), another nationally known attorney who was once Brady’s closest friend and political confidant, and Bertram “Bert” Cates (an unpretentious Matthew Mitchell), a Hillsboro high school teacher who has taught the theory of evolution in violation of a state law banning its teaching in classrooms.
It is interesting to note that the character E.K. Hornbeck (a sarcastic and cynical David Shoemaker), the newspaper columnist for the Baltimore Herald, is based upon H. L. Mencken, a newspaper columnist for the Baltimore Sun who covered the Scopes trial.
Reverend Brown (a zealous Peter Wilkes) leads the support of the evangelical town of Hillsboro with a desire to protect the town as one maintaining the consistent values he grew up on shines throughout court testimony. Understated yet firm leadership through unwavering beliefs of the traditional Bible belt revivals showed a unity of the town congregation. The daughter of Reverend Brown, Rachel Brown (played with great emotional range by Lanoree Blake), is a second-grade schoolteacher and close friend of Bert Cates. Her emotional struggle is felt in her fear of being the cause for Bertram’s conviction if forced to testify.
Production values are also very well-done. In particular, I really admire the simple, yet elegant and functional set design which transitions easily between a church meeting, town hall, and courtroom.
This emotionally gripping production reminds everyone to look beyond your past and do not let history predict the future. The ability to slowly create change is shown within several elements of this story. Whether that change is shown through a judge’s ruling, the position made by legal counsel, or that of an outside observer, Sherrionne Brown’s telling of this well-known story stands strong. This dynamic cast reminds us all to keep an open mind without compromising your individual values, encouraging the audience to look beyond merely what is presented to show how a world can change.
Running Time: Two and a half hours, including a one 15-minute intermission.
“Inherit the Wind” performs through February 4, 2018, at the Vagabond Theatre, 806 South Broadway, Baltimore, MD. For tickets, purchase them online.