review: our town

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Our Town

By Thornton Wilder
Directed by David Cromer
Starring David Cromer (as Stage Manager) and others
Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow Street (7th Avenue South of Christopher Street)
production web site:
http://www.barrowstreettheatre.com/whats-on/town.asp
run concludes September 12, 2010

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
September 7, 2010

Life and death in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire at the turn of the 20th century, in a time of horses and strawberry phosphates.  A performance with two intermissions.  [“A captain with seven children …”]  (I wonder before entering: is this play ever performed pause-less?  It’s a challenge — past / present / future — I suppose it could be done. ) And very quickly I realize that I’m thrilled that this experience does not feel compressed but it expands into our breath, our being, our sensibilities.  You want and savor each pause and you want each word in its place.  In this small black box theatre in the heart of Greenwich Village, in a production that moved from its original base in Chicago as directed by and led on stage by David Cromer as Stage Manager, silence is as precious and important as each word and each movement.

Thankfully we are left to celebrate in this case, with this production, every calibrated moment of small town life with teenaged then young adult Emily Webb (Jennifer Grace) and her parents (Kati  Brazda and David Manis), the boy next door George Gibbs (James McMenamin) and his little sister and parents (Emma Galvin, Ann Dowd, and Jeff Still).  And additional towns folk who exhibit charm and foibles and humanity.  This story of American small town life on the page survives marginal productions (and I have seen several myself).  This version of this story, on this stage, led by our Stage Manager as if we in the theatre are being walked through an initial read through of the play with the assembled cast (he complete with pen and legal pad in hand) is resonant and eternal.  We live with these characters their lessons of a life well lived. We cherish with them the words,  the deeds, the moments as small as morning light through kitchen windows, so sweet and precious at the moment we experience them that we gasp.

This is a story and a production of parsimonious brilliance.  I am proud to have lived in a city (Chicago) with a theatre company (The Hypocrites) that birthed this production.  And I am proud to have lived for just a brief shining moment in this world, this Our Town.

© Martha Wade Steketee (September 8, 2010)

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