■ By Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter
You would never know it was a chilly night at the dress rehearsal of Lawrence & Lee’s ever popular “Inherit The Wind,” because the production heated up the theater like a like a homecoming bonfire.
Director Frank Siebke remarkably brought the production through the evening despite the last minute substitution of a character and a few glitches that are corrected by opening night.
Frank, aka Hitchcock of Hollywood, inserted himself into a minor role.
I would assume everyone would know the story by now, but you can never tell in Hemet. For those who need to be informed, the play is a somewhat fictional account of the famous Scopes monkey trial held in a small Tennessee Bible Belt community in 1925. The trial that focused on Darwin’s evolution theory versus the bible’s creation story pitted famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow against bible-thumping, flame throwing William Jennings Bryan in the most
famous battle ever between ideologies in a courtroom.
It has been said that Bryan’s sudden death five days after the trial’s conclusion was
attributable to the expenditure of his energy against Darrow.
Seeing a dress rehearsal gives one a more honest view of drama because there is no
audience to distract a critic with overt emotional outbursts from an audience. This production, with all due respects to the supporting cast, belongs to the battling attorneys. Allen Purchis as Matthew Brady (Bryan) and Bob Norman, as Henry Drummond (Darrow) are the stars of this production. Norman would be the Academy Award nominee if this were a motion picture.
Whereas Purchis tended to somewhat overdramatize his role (which in
it’s totality is overly dramatic as a character). That fault lies perhaps with the director. Nevertheless between director and his two stars there is a communication that would belie any real criticism.
As in all productions there is at least one scene stealer and in this instance there are two. First, the town mayor portrayed as a somewhat country bumpkin by Thomas Mathews is ever so anxious to bow down to Drummond who roars into town with all the accouterments that accompany a celebrity.
The other actor to take center stage more than once is someone else I’ve not been
privileged to see before. His name is Josh Sommers and he plays the role of a somewhat witty, smart aleck Baltimore reporter who struts into town like Walter Winchell to laud the merits of a small town exhibition of fifteen minutes of fame. He is the rash young reporter right out of the Pat O’brien film Front Page.
Both these young men have a home here, if not beyond. Keep an eye on them. Stalwarts like Kevin Speir and Jeri Greene perform with due respect to the characters they portray as they always do.
Although the poor fellow on trial, the teacher who is accused of teaching all sorts of evil and abomination via Darwin’s “The Origin,” has little to say considering everything he means to the play. However, he shines through the back and forth dialog between the two famous lawyers.
Norman and Purchis tear away at the man as though he were a tough steak being served up on a country platter. There are many supporting roles. They all do their job in journeyman fashion and are the pillars who support the roof over this hell fire.
As usual, the Ramona Hillside Players brings us drama worthy of the boards upon which they trod. If you have never seen this play, it should be a must see. If you have seen it, you might want to witness again just to see what a local theater adds to the show.
• Alysia Albeck as Rachel Brown
• Kevin Speir as Mr. Meeker
• Frank Jaramillo as Bertram Cates (Scopes)
• Jeri Greene as Storekeeper/Goodfellow
• Janet Fulton as Mrs. Keriebs
• John Leon as Rev. Brown (a hells fire, God fearing Southern Baptist Minister)
• Mark Branyon as Elijah/Mr Bennet)
• Savanna Deborn and Mallory Albeck as Melinda
• Patrick Payne as Howard
• Judi Phares as Mrs. McLain/Mrs. Blair
• Josh Sommers as EK Hornbeck
• Thomas Mathews as the Mayor
• Kathleen Walker as Mrs. Brady
• Allen Purchis as Matthew Brady
• Roselyn Leon as Davenport
• Chuck Sims as the Judge
• Winston Greene as Dunlap
• Bob Norman as Henry Drummond (Darrow)
• Mike Rowland as Sillers
• Tiare Torres and Kimberly Restaneo in various other parts
• Director: Frank Siebke
7:30 p.m. – Friday, Feb. 1
2:30 p.m. – Saturday, Feb. 2
2:30 p.m. – Sunday, Feb. 3
Opening night admission is $10 per seat, single admission (everyone) is $15 per seat, and group discount available for 10 or more seats.
The show will be located at 27402 Ramona Bowl Road in Hemet.
Rusty Strait is a senior reporter with the Valley Chronicle and can be reached via email at email@example.com.