Director James Cady and the Adobe Theater are mounting the production of an American classic in March. “You know I like to do what I consider great plays with the best actors I can get,” said Cady in a recent interview. “I chose this play based on the Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial because, like all great plays, its message is for all time.”
“Inherit the Wind” portrays two influential lawyers arguing each side of the creationism v. Darwinism argument and which “science” should be taught in public schools. Its message is indeed relevant today, with Florida and other states on the verge of forbidding the teaching of critical race theory, which is based on the actual American history of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws and present, pervasive racism. It was again relevant in 2005 when parents in the town of Dover, Penna., sued the Dover Area School District over their requirement that “intelligent design” be taught in state-funded schools as an alternate to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The textbook that the school district used to teach their alternate version of mankind’s biological journey was called Of Pandas and People; the trial was called the Dover Panda Trial in a direct reference to the Scopes ‘Monkey’ Trial.
Both trials put Christianity v. science on display. “This play is about the right to think,” said Cady.
The Scopes trial (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) in 1925 was argued by William Jennings Bryan on the creationism side and Clarence Darrow on the side of evolution. Their names have been changed in the play to Matthew Harrison Brady (Bryan) and Henry Drummond (Darrow). John Thomas Scopes is called Bertram “Bert” Cates, the high school teacher whose decision to teach evolution instead of creationism brought the wrath of Tennessee down on his head. Other characters have been augmented or added to support the drama.
“The teacher never served time [in the actual trial] but it turned into a circus,” Cady said. In the 1960 movie starring Fredric March (Brady/Bryan) and Spencer Tracy (Drummond/Darrow), an actual circus comes to town, featuring a monkey who smokes cigarettes like a human.
There are no monkeys in his play, said Cady. “There are 26 fabulous actors, doing wonderful acting.”
His two main actors are Paul Ford as Brady and Philip J. Shortell as Drummond. Ford is a local actor, director and playwright (“Winter Tales”) known for his association with Theatre-In-The-Making; Shortell has acted in TV shows (“Better Call Saul”) and on the local stage, where he sometimes sings. Both actors are well known to local audiences.
What should audiences look for in “Inherit the Wind,” besides timely themes? “Details,” Cady said. “[Playwrights] Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee did a damn good job. It’s an important play and they don’t lose momentum.”
“Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Directed by James Cady
March 3-26, Adobe Theater, 9813 4th St. NW, 505.898.9222, adobetheater.org