Sounder review: Holy Monkey Trial

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By Derek Kilbourn, Editor  (c) Sounder News  Monday, March 24 2014

This past weekend, the Gabriola Players put on a presentation of Inherit the Wind, a play written in the 1950s about the 1925 Stokes Trial, popularly known as the Monkey Trial.

The defendant in the original trial was a teacher, who had broken the law of the State of Tennessee by teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in the classroom. The trial took place in a small town in Tennessee, but the lawyers for the two sides were both national heavy weights, brought in as the trial took international stage.

It seems shocking to us today to think any modern education system might try to outlaw the teaching of something we now consider so basic to our scientific understanding of where humans came from. (Our federal government’s war on scientific independence notwithstanding….)

Yet the trial was put on, and at the end of the whole thing, the school teacher was found guilty and had to pay a $100 fine or appeal the decision.  Yet through the whole thing, what was put on trial was not whether the teacher had broken the law, but whether the law itself was just or unjust.

The Gabriola Players put on an exceptional performance of this play. Garry Davey had the role as the agnostic defense lawyer Henry Drummond. Mark Smith played Matthew Harrison Brady, the prosecuting attorney and defender of the holy faith. Both were outstanding in their roles. And then there was the performance of the Reverend Jeremiah Brown by Victor Anthony. Maybe it’s his native Tennessee accent coming out, but the fire and brimstone from Victor as he calls a curse down on his daughter for loving the defendant made one forget this was theatre.

At the conclusion of the play, the audience hears the reporter E.K. Hornbeck (played by Donna Deacon) from Big City Baltimore mocking the faithful prosecutor, but Hornbeck is in turn shot down by Mr. Drummond. Drummond (the agnostic) says that for whatever faults or wrongs Brady might have had, it was his right to have them.  The message being: we should all have free will. It is when we seek to impose that will on each other that we turn astray from what we each call holy.

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