A mighty ‘Wind’

Impressive acting, taut direction carry CNY Playhouse’s ‘Inherit the Wind’

— As the cynical big-city journalist, Mastin nearly steals the show. Whether chomping on an apple or chewing on his unlit red pipe, his Hornbeck serves as a one-man Greek chorus commenting sarcastically on the unfolding action. Mastin expertly captures the columnist’s refreshing wit and wisdom m.

In most courtroom dramas the defendant remains a major character, but not here where he’s overshadowed by two big-time battling barristers. Nevertheless, Austin Arlington makes his presence felt as the free-thinking teacher, Bertram Cates. His best scene comes in Act Two when he interrupts the trial to protest the cross-examination of his girlfriend, the preacher’s daughter, Rachel Brown, played by a lovely Liz Russell.

If director Lemos is inclined to tweak scenes during the run, she and stage manager Barry Nicholas might reconsider how to end Act One. On opening night, the audience of 30 sat stunned when the house lights suddenly brightened and only applauded after artistic director Dustin Czarny appeared onstage to hawk raffle tickets. It was an awkward moment.

Similarly, the beginning of Act Two got off to a slower-than-expected start with the nearly inaudible testimony of farm-boy Howard played by Tyler Barnes. Sure, Howard’s shy and uncomfortable on the witness stand, but his lines must be better projected.

In any case, this CNY Playhouse production – one of its best ever – ably reminds us “Inherit the Wind” is not so much about resistance to the theory of evolution as it about resistance to free-thinking.

“Inherit the Wind” continues at CNY Playhouse, near the Macy’s entrance at DeWitt’s ShoppingTown Mall,at 8 p.m. Oct.24, 25 and 26. Tickets cost $15 Thursday and $20 on Friday and Saturday, or $34.95 for 6:30 p.m. dinner and 8 p.m. show on Saturdays; 885-8960; cnyplayhouse.com.

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