Matt Modine Fills the House

Who says the economy is bad? OK, just about everyone, but the recession resides outside the theater walls of Hartford Stage.

Inside their latest production, "To Kill A Mockingbird," starring veteran actor Matthew Modine, is playing to standing room-only crowds and is the theater's best-selling production ever.

It could be the attraction of Modine or the fact that it's a brilliant adaptation of one of the most beloved American novels of all time. Either way, it's good news for the theater world.

Modine plays Atticus Finch, famously portrayed by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film version, an Alabama lawyer who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in the segregated south of 1933. "Modine as Atticus is physically commanding without being domineering ... He's deliberate in both word and action, and finds moments of humor," the Hartford Advocate said.

In "Mockingbird," Modine supports the central character, Scout, Finch's 8-year-old daughter, played by Olivia Scott. In his decades-long film career, Modine has played many the supporting character, most famously as Pvt. Joker in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket."

In fact, Modine admits he turned down the leading role of "Maverick" in the 1986 blockbuster "Top Gun." Tom Cruise was later cast in that role. It ended up being the one that launched his career.

However, the folks at Hartford Stage would argue that this current gig is working for Modine just fine. Since the show debuted in late February, it's been extended twice. It's now running through April 12 with a full week of extra performances.

And Cruise is now best known for jumping on couches. 

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