Our Town is magically done by People’s Light and Theatre
My journey with Our Town by Thornton Wilder is not unique. I first engaged it as a teenager and loved the characters in Act 1 (A Day in the Life). Next I was a father and English Teacher and director. I embraced Act 2 (Love and Marriage) as it most touched me at that time of life. I am now much older and retired and can now truly understand Wilder’s Act 3 (Death and Eternity). As we age, we can appreciate the “truth” of Wilder’s play.
As if that were not enough, People’s Light under the direction of Abigail Adams has deliciously wrung every bit of juice from this timeless classic. She has created an incredible ensemble of actors young and old who are committed to respecting the work as it has been written. She mentions in her notes how “the play draws attention to its very nature as a play,” and her use of spare, representational scenery, well placed sound effects and the use of homespun music compliments of David Lutken who charmed us in last year’s Woody Sez. Anyone who saw that production realizes, he may have been born to play the Stage Manager in this play. Lutken is the essence of the iconic role of the Stage Manager. He greets us warmly, seduces the audience with his charm, and takes command of both the action and the information that helps us better understand.
From the wonderfully relaxed musical get together which greets the entering audience and precedes the show, he is in command, but his command is done with the kid gloves of charm that is his persona on stage. The rest of the cast is equally wonderful, each taking advantage of their part of the story and committing themselves to the mimed actions that make the spare scenery come alive.
This skill is demonstrated most effectively by the two sets of parents, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs (Benjamin Brown and Teri Lamm) and Mr. and Mrs. Webb (Graham Smith and Melanye Finister). The two wives especially make you see inside their kitchens and outside in their gardens. As the two, central young people, George Gibbs (Josh Olumide) and Emily Webb (Claire Inie-Richards) wonderfully capture the myriad emotions that make up our development from childhood into adulthood.
The entire ensemble is uniformly dead on. Each one commits himself or herself to the essence of the character and the vision of the director. I especially like some of the additions Director Adams made. The hootenanny in the beginning, the dancing at the wedding that transitioned seamlessly into the graveyard scene, and the use of live sound effects done on the stage.
Adams’ design team also contribute to this beautiful production. Luke Cantarella (Set Design), Dennis Parichy (Lighting Designer), Marla J. Jurglanis (Costume Designer), and Erin Sheffield (Choreography) all are up to the challenge of a sparse, environmental set. This is not an ordinary Our Town by any means. This production captures the details of this universal play. It runs at the Leonard C. Haas Stage until August 25th. For information and tickets call the Box Office 610.644.3500 or go to their website www.peopleslight.org