Huntington’s ‘Our Town’ is your town, too
BOSTON — When Thornton Wilder was conjuring up the town of Grover’s Corners, N.H., for his Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece “Our Town,“ he took great pains to describe just how unremarkable a place it was.
It was his way of saying that “Our Town” is your town, too.
During the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “Our Town,” the character of Mr. Webb, editor of the Grover’s Corners Sentinel, answers questions posed by members of the audience about the town.
“Is there any culture or beauty in Grover’s Corners? Well, no. A few girls play the piano, but they ain’t happy about it.”
But he proudly points that 90 percent of the young people in town — including those who went away to college — stay to live in the town.
The Huntington recently extended to Jan. 26 its warm, winning “Our Town” at the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts.
Director David Cromer has taken advantage of the flexibility of the space to make the theatre-goers as much a part of Grover’s Corners as possible. A few long rows surround the stage on three sides, and the actors are in and among us much of the time, with some of the action taking place in a balcony in a corner of the theater.
The configuration makes it especially important that theater-goers arrive on time and don’t linger in the lobby too long during the two intermissions.
A strong ensemble of actors, including many of Boston’s best and brightest, bring to life the rhythms of life in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the century.
Joel Colodner, who replaced Cromer as the Stage Manager on Dec. 31, is our worldly-wise guide to the town, pointing out the various ethnic enclaves, the landmarks, and taking special note of the way the sun hovers the nearby mountain.
The action centers around two town families: Dr. Gibbs (Craig Mathers), Mrs. Gibbs, (Melinda Lopez) and their children George (Derrick Trumbly) and Rebecca (Emily Skeggs), and Mr. Webb (Christopher Tarjan), Mrs. Webb (Stacy Fischer) and their children Emily (Theresa Plaehn) and Wally (Eliott Purcell).
The lives of the two families intersect in special ways as George and Emily fall in love, get married, and then have their fortunes buffeted by the vagaries of life.
Nael Nacer delivers the latest in a string of strong performances as Simon Stimson, the alcoholic choirmaster who lives a life of quiet desperation, and there are strong contributions from Marianna Bassham as Mrs. Soames and Paul Farwell as Constable Warren.
Wilder was prescient in forseeing forces of the future might that might affect connection and sense of community that the residents of Grover’s Corners obviously felt. Perhaps he knew 75 years ago that someday we might tear the social fabric and become more concerned with the latest app on the Iphone than how we could help a struggling neighbor
As per Wilder’s instructions, the show is simply staged but there is a scene in the third act, when Emily looks back from beyond the grave at her 12th birthday, when the unreal becomes spectacularly, heartbreakingly real, thanks to set designer Stephen Dobay.
At a recent matinee performance, it was heartening to see the number of young people attending, watching in wonder as George and Emily, still almost children themselves, exchanged marriage vows so soon after a high school graduation.
“Our Town” is stunning in its portrayal of small everyday events writ large. Plan a visit to Grover’s Corners as soon as possible.
The Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Directed by David Cromer. At the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion of the Boston Center for the Arts through Jan. 26. Huntingtontheatre.org