After a false start on opening night due to a Mother Nature-induced power outage, the Lawrence Community Theatre's production of "Inherit the Wind" has weathered the weather and is bringing the emotion of the on-going evolution debate to its stage.
The 2 1/2-hour play is, of course, about the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Hillsboro, Tenn., where tempers and religiosity were as scorching as the 97-degree temperature.
And while the overt premise of the play revolves about teacher Bert Cates' (Kevin Kelly) teaching the theory of evolution in a state where it was outlawed and considered blasphemous, the real meat of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's drama is in the relationship between the two lawyers Matthew Harrison Brady (Robert Mathews), a former presidential candidate who proudly proclaims he is fighting for the ordinary people and upholding the teachings of the Bible, and Henry Drummond (Fred Bahr), a disheveled-looking man who wants people to have the right to think.
Mathews gets under the skin of his bigger-than-life character to expose his human frailty and show just how tragic his life has become. Brady cannot face that man has the God-given ability to learn and discover new facts about the world, facts that may go against his long-held beliefs. Brady is so paralyzed by his fear that he dies rather than adapt.
Bahr, likewise, does a good job of capturing the innerness of his character, who is tired of fighting the good fight but knows he must go on. Money and status mean nothing to Drummond; it's about getting to the truth even if it's considered wrong.
The fickleness and meanness that are part of human nature are laid out when the townspeople who championed Brady at his arrival turned on him once he began to unravel on the witness stand.
The play drags a bit at the start of Act 1 as the cast sets up the story line but quickly picks up and becomes electric during a prayer meeting led by the zealous Rev. Jeremiah Brown, who is fervently played by Marion Constantinescu. Placement of cast members in the audience during the courtroom scene of Act II makes the goings-on seem real and draws the audience into the action.
"Inherit the Wind" continues at 2:30 p.m. today, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 8.