Inherit the Wind: Bibles Thumping, Suspenders Snapping (NYC Theater)

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The handsome wooden courtroom that has been erected on the stage of the Lyceum Theater is Christopher Plummer’s personal playground. This may sound like a frivolous description of a forum for the lofty and abidingly important debate that occupies “Inherit the Wind,” the 1955 drama that opened last night, also starring Brian Dennehy, in a revival that is just about as wooden as its set.

But while the subject of teaching evolution and religion in public schools is even more topical than it was when Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s worthy war horse first galloped onto Broadway more than half a century ago, Mr. Plummer at play is something sacred. If the Bible-quoting fundamentalists in “Inherit the Wind” want to make a case for the spark of divinity that separates man from beast, they need only point to the show’s august star, having the time of his life, as Exhibit A.

Approaching the end of his eighth decade, Mr. Plummer knows that if all the world’s a stage, few places in it are more temptingly so than a courtroom, an arena that would seem to have been conceived expressly for showboats with scripts.

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