September 28 – October 20, 2013
Winner! 1938 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Drama. Described by Edward Albee as “…the greatest American play ever written,” the story follows the small town of Grover’s Corners through three acts: “Daily Life,” “Love and Marriage,” and “Death and Eternity.” Narrated by a stage manager and performed with minimal props and sets, audiences follow the Webb and Gibbs families as their children fall in love, marry, and eventually—in one of the most famous scenes in American theatre—die. Presented in the playwright’s definitive version in this celebration of the show’s 75th anniversary.
William Wilday serves as the stage manager informing the audience about Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, where the folks call this hamlet “our town”. This is where the felicitous people go about within their daily lives. Among the nearly 3000 folks that reside are two families; The Webbs and the Gibbs, where George Gibbs (Patrick Clyde) and Emily Webb (Heather Barnett) start off as neighbors, eventually become lovers, and before long, the two are husband and wife. However, not everything lasts forever as the stage manager (as narrator) informs the audience that even in such a small hamlet where folks are born and they live, they too die–just as plain folks do.
This is one of just a handful of plays created within the last one hundred years that just seem to get better upon age and through each performance presented anywhere. Within this production as seen at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre, the staging is presented as originally intended. There are no scenery viewed on stage; just a few furnishings consisting of simple period tables, chairs and related pieces. No props are used by the performers as well, as each player mimics an item used or “held” in the form of mime. This form of theater is how this play was initially proposed to be presented, creating the illusion that the period this play covers (roughly between 1901 and 1913-a dozen years) comes from a simple time where folks were not as rushed and hurried as they are “now”.
Getting back to the Morgan-Wixson presentation. William Wilday as the stage manager/narrator presents his role as friendly and proud to where he hails. He is a wise and elder man, a bit roly-poly, but is down-to-earth just like the rest of the regular townsfolks. Patrick Clyde and Heather Barnett as George and Emily are exactly like the “kids next door”, lively and good natured–the way one would desire this kind of presence! And what’s a play such as this one where if features a rather robust group of troupers–a few in multiple roles! Those players are Dick Herlan, Evan Brodsky, Doug Kiphut, Annette Romano, Mouchette Van Helsdingen, Samantha Speer, Sebastian Schier, Tom Lasky, Jim Cox, Paula Allen, Alexander Brockhoff, Judy Rosenfeld, Raymond Donahey, Mary Ann Link, Terry Delegeane, Matthew Sheenan, and Susan Stangl. Space doesn’t allow this reviewer to acknowledge each role and its presentation, but every performer adds their own spice as depicted that makes this play just what it is; a nostalgic look of small town America. And under the guise of director Michele Gossett, the cast sets out to form this little community as the ideal place to live, work, fall in love, and yes–the ideal place to die.
And noting on nostalgia, Ruth Talley (of Make Believe, Inc.) provides the costuming showing off the look and fashion ideas of early 20th century.
This calendar year makes the 75th anniversary of this play’s first performance. Even way back when in the late 1930’s, people were looking back some thirty or so years before noting that times were a bit slower and even laid back comparing to the present era. In spite of the notion for the “good ol’ days”, OUR TOWN never ages one bit! Even if one has seen it dozens of times beforehand, or perhaps this is one’s premier look, it’s still a charm to see or see again! As a songs suggests, you’ll like the folks you’ll meet in out town! They don’t churn out plays as this one as they used to!