The Broadway production of “Inherit The Wind”, which pits Christopher Plummer’s Tony-nominated performance of Henry Drummond up against Brian Dennehy’s critic-disappointing turn as Matthew Harrison Brady is a revelation. And that revelation has everything to do with the astonishingly profound – and unforgivably ignored – acting choices made by Mr. Dennehy. Unlike Fredric March, who took a far easier path in the film version by shaping Brady into a charismatic, Bible-thumping blowhard, Dennehy chooses to explore the infinite complexities of a man nearing the end of his life who suddenly finds himself questioning and doubting all that he’s ever believed in. An iconic man confronted with the realization that his time has come and gone, the fear that everything he stood for could very well be wrong. Faced with Plummer’s tour de force, Dennehy goes under it, not over the top – and it all makes complete sense! Only a religious man wrestling with his own conscience would rush to the aid of a preacher’s daughter, literally knocked down by her father for supporting her “blasphemous” colleague/paramour on trial. A man who with a brilliant lawyer’s rational mind would no doubt succumb to Drummond’s eloquently sound reasoning.
I have an enormous amount of respect for an actor who can take a panning from critics too simple to see the genius of his performance and not give a damn, just carry on with what he knows is right. Christopher Plummer’s Henry Drummond might have won on the side of truth, but Brian Dennehy’s portrayal of Matthew Harrison Brady is nothing short of truth incarnate.