My friend got free tickets to see the Aaron Sorkin adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird and invited me and it was one of the most uncomfortable theater experiences I’ve ever had.
The audience seemed to think there was a lot of humor in this story? Like huge laughs at scenes where Tom and Calpurnia note Atticus doesn’t understand racism? Or one where Mayella Ewell being an incest survivor is mocked? And they really lean into the “The Ewells are white trash and that’s why they’re racist. The good whites are the ones with money” angle by making jokes about how they can’t read or Mayella thinking Atticus is making fun of her by calling her “ma’am,” which all got hearty chuckles from the audience. My friend and I kept turning to each other and whispering “Why are we laughing? What is happening?” Just weird laugh after laugh from the audience and I think it was because there were Sorkin-esque quips throughout, but they felt tonally off because of, ya know, the actual plot.
Plus there was all of the usual Sorkin inspirational speech-ifying. At one point Atticus Finch even looks directly at the audience and says “We have to do better. We can do better,” and everyone started clapping. And the characters all sing an inspirational hymn at the end, which led to more clapping. It was basically that scene in The Newsroom where they played Coldplay.
The audience was overwhelmingly white, besides my friend I saw maybe 4 or 5 Black people, and we also looked like the only ones in our section younger than 50. I was looking at reviews on the way home and I can’t believe how well received it was. I didn’t expect it to be a masterpiece, but the audience’s reactions to it just made me think I was watching an entirely different play than them.