In one sense, Community Little Theatre has dusted off a classic drama for its January production of “Inherit the Wind.” In another sense, the theater group will present a story right out of current headlines.

“Intellectual stimulation” is one description of the play used by Dick Martin, who is directing. He points out that the plot’s treatment of a true story is echoed by recent controversy in some states about teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution and creationism, either or both, in public schools. “Inherit the Wind” accentuates the cerebral and emotional duel between two titans of the courtroom rather than attempt to arrive at definitive answers to the underlying religious debate.

In the play Matthew Harrison Brady, an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency, is the lawyer for the prosecution and Henry Drummond is the highly respected defense attorney.

“Two seasoned actors have the lead roles,” Martin said, with Bruce Gerry portraying Brady and Ron Veno playing Drummond.

“Inherit the Wind” is a fictionalized account of the famous July 1925 trial in a small Tennessee courtroom that pitted William Jennings Bryan against famed lawyer Clarence Darrow – essentially the characters played by Gerry and Veno, respectively.

Bertram Cates, a young teacher arrested for teaching evolution (portrayed by Don Libby) is the play’s counterpart to Tennessee teacher John Thomas Scopes.

Evan Charest has the role of E.K. Hornbeck, a cynical reporter from the Baltimore Herald. The reporter in real life was H.L. Mencken.

The action takes place in a highly charged atmosphere after townspeople are whipped into a frenzy by the local reverend, who held a prayer meeting in the town square on the eve of the trial.

The mid-1950s dramatization of the real-life Scopes “Monkey Trial” by playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee hit a nerve across social, regional and religious lives. Their title for the play was taken from the Biblical Book of Proverbs 11:29: “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”

Theater patrons will remember the play’s Broadway opening in 1955 with Paul Muni, Ed Begley and a young Tony Randall. Forty-one years later, to the day, Randall returned to Broadway to direct George C. Scott and Charles Durning in a revival.

An acclaimed movie starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, and a later film with George C. Scott and Jack Lemmon, have been made of “Inherit the Wind.”

It is said that since the play first graced Broadway, it has been performed almost every night somewhere in the world.

An interesting slant on the play is a series of “summonses” that were mailed to Androscoggin County lawyers soliciting their appearance as jurors for the trial. Attorneys appearing as jury members include Andrew Choate, Thomas Peters, James Pross, Scott Quigley, former Lewiston Mayor Laurier Raymond, Kevin Regan, David J. Van Dyke, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Worden and Robert Young. Lewiston Mayor Lionel Guay and Auburn Mayor Norman Guay are also part of the jury.

Martin said the cameo appearances will vary from performance to performance.


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