- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 7, 2000

A sign saying "Read your Bible" hangs outside the courthouse. The defense lawyer asks that it be taken down or that another sign be hung counterpoint to it.
No, it's not the latest chapter of the prayer-in-schools debate, it's Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's "Inherit the Wind," playing at Ford's Theatre.
The play is based on the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial" in Dayton, Tenn., in which high school teacher John Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution. Earlier that year, Tennessee had passed a law prohibiting the teaching of any doctrine contrary to the creation story in the Bible.
The play is not a historical re-creation of the trial, however. Names and events have been altered or omitted.
The two attorneys — Matthew Harrison Brady and Henry Drummond — are based on lawyers who argued the actual case. William Jennings Bryan, the model for Brady, was a religious fundamentalist and three-time candidate for U.S. president; Clarence Darrow was a famous defense lawyer and civil libertarian.
Robert Prosky, once a stalwart at Arena Stage, plays Brady. Drummond is portrayed by James Whitmore.
As the play begins, children are arguing over whether they once were worms. Bit by bit, the audience learns that schoolteacher Bertram Cates, played by Bill Dawes, is in jail awaiting trial for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution.
The townspeople are overjoyed at the expected arrival of Brady and a trial, to be carried by radio and newspaper, to justify their religious beliefs.
Then they discover the identity of the defense lawyer, Drummond, a man they refer to as an "atheist" and maybe even "the devil."
Mr. Prosky and Mr. Whitmore wonderfully portray their characters as polar opposites — Brady, with his charm, perfect posture, a pressed suit and combed hair, and Drummond, with his irascible nature, slightly hunched body and rumpled suit and hair.
The two constantly snipe at each other, getting in splendid digs with great timing.
Also at odds are big-city journalist E.K. Hornbeck, based on H.L. Mencken and played by Jay Edwards, and the town's residents.
The townspeople, led by the Rev. Jeremiah Brown, portrayed by Bill Cwikowski, use every opportunity to demonstrate and defend their faith. Hornbeck is a critic who, well, criticizes everything the people believe and do.
The townspeople, when interviewed for jury selection, brag not only about not reading Darwin's "The Origin of Species," but — some of them — about not reading at all.
Although the trial happened more than 75 years age, evolutionism vs. creationism is still debated. As Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Lee wrote in their introduction, "It might have been yesterday. It could be tomorrow."

WHAT: "Inherit the Wind"

WHERE: Ford's Theatre, 511 10th St. NW

WHEN: 7:30 Tuesday through Saturday, 1 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, through Nov. 5

TICKETS: $27 to $43

PHONE: 703/218-6500 or www.tickets.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide