Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Inherit The Wind
Clayton Community Theatre
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's reviews of Mad Max: A Live! Magic Smoking Monkey Parody, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress and It Shoulda Been You

Mark Abels, Jam Danek (foreground) with Tom Day, Nathan Schroeder, and Mica Tharp
Photo by John Lamb
First off, they need to change their name. "Clayton Community Theatre" sounds awfully amateurish, and there is nothing amateurish about this show. In fact, in the last year or more, the group has excelled in big-name dramas like this one, with thoughtful, energetic and well-tailored performances from top to bottom.

Second, the Matthew Brady you'll see on stage may be different from the one who played him on opening weekend. Respected actor Mark Abels (in a case of "life imitating art") suffered chest pains and other symptoms shortly before his entrance during the official opening performance, and then spent the weekend across the street at St. Mary's Hospital. Mr. Abels was replaced at the last minute by director Mark A. Neels, who also performed Saturday and Sunday as the Bible-thumping, on-stage representation of William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate who lobbied state legislatures to ban the teaching of evolution theory in public schools.

So there was drama piled on top of the usual courtroom drama on opening night in Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's 1955 play based on the 1925 "Scopes Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee. The next night, director Neels carried a sheaf of papers in the second half of the play, though he barely glanced at them and approached the role with relish.

Playing opposite him is Jim Danek as the fictionalized version of famed defense attorney Clarence Darrow. He's quite excellent, though you may be surprised at how much he sounds like Spencer Tracy, who played the same character (Henry Drummond) in the 1960 movie. But Mr. Danek's is such a warm, avuncular performance that everything he does seems both natural and appropriate. The whole show plays like a great, spontaneous conflagration-of eminently reasonable people—which, of course means that it was quite carefully plotted out by everyone involved.

The big crowd scenes are perfect: lively, intense, and even lyrical—and funny in both movement and expression. Steve Garrett is fearsome as Reverend Brown, consumed with an old-time burning passion in his sermonizing. He masterfully whips up hysteria over substitute teacher Bertram Cates' in-class references to Charles Darwin's revolutionary book, "On The Origin of Species." And as Cates, Ryan Adolph is wonderfully gentle and worried throughout, while lovely Mica Tharp is shackled with anxiety as Cates' girlfriend (and the preacher's daughter, of course) Rachel.

Mary Robert is a great distaff version of H.L. Mencken, the curmudgeonly journalist who (like the two lawyers) has come in from afar to participate in the spectacle. And Aaron Mermelstein and Tom Day are perfect as the local mayor and the judge in the trial, respectively.

Through June 26, 2016 at the South Campus of Washington University (across from the Esquire Theatre) at 6501 Clayton Rd. (a block east of Big Bend Blvd.). For more information visit

Melinda: Belle Gage
Howard: Mark Van Coutren
Rachel Brown: Mica Tharp
Meeker: Nathan Schroeder
Bertram Cates: Ryan Adolph
Mr. Goodfellow: Kevin Babcock
Mr. Bannister: Howie Hirshfield
Mrs. Krebs: Erin Struckhoff
Rev. Jeremiah Brown: Steve Garrett
Sillers: Tom Moore
Mr. Krebs: Grant Neimeyer
Mrs. McClain: Michelle Beczkala
Mrs. Blair: Stephanie McCreary
Elijah: Hal Morgan
E.K. Hornbeck: Mary Robert
Bible League Lead Singer: Jazmine Wade
Bible League Members (singers) includes towns-women and: Carla Brown, Andrea Busch, Jessa Knust, Marisa Putnam, Sarah Ratcliff and Caitlin von Seckendorff
Mayor: Aaron Mermelstein
Mathew Harrison Brady: Mark Abels*
Photographer: Joe Wegescheide
Tom Davenport: Armand Kachigian
Mrs. Brady: Ann Egenriether
Judge: Tom Day
Henry Drummond: Jim Danek
Jurors include towns-men and Mark Choquette, John Michael McGowan, S. Thaddeus O'Donnell, Jack Ratcliff, Sam West, Jim Yelton
Dunlap: Jeff Struckhoff
Reuters Man: Dan McGee
Harry Y. Easterbrook: Scott Brocato
Mrs. Loomis: Carla Brown
Ladies Auxiliary: Michelle Beczkala, Carla Brown
Krebs Children: Elena Brown, Josie Gillette, Delaney Struckhoff
McClain Girl: Kellann Struckhoff
Students: Justice Banks, Caitlin von Seckendorff, Sarah Ratcliff

Director: Mark A. Neels
Assistant Director: Darrious Varner
Stage Manager: Betsy Gasoske
Assistant Stage Manager: Kim Boxdorfer
Producers: Sam Hack and Marilyn Albert-Hack
Music Director: Meredith Todd
Props: Nada Vaughn
Costume Designers: Tracey A. Newcomb, Jean Heckmann
Set Design: Mark A. Neels
Lead Carpenter: Andrew Cary
Lighting Design: Nathan Schroeder
Electrics Crew: Ben Brink, Jessa Knust, Lee Meyer, Ellen Schroeder
Sound Design: Nathan Schroeder
Board Operator: Ben Brink
Kid Wrangler: Jessica Taylor
House Manager/Concessions: Sheri Hogan, Paula Trammel
Box Office: Ellen Schroeder
Artwork & Poster: Darrious Varner

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