It's easy to get lost in the delicate characterizations presented in Hayfield Secondary School's production of "Our Town," Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winner.

The play reminds one of the simplicities of daily life: snapping beans with your neighbor on the front stoop, say, or sharing a soda with the one person you could share a million meals with and never lack for conversation. Watching Hayfield's "Our Town" last weekend, audience members could sit in the darkened auditorium and, in childlike wonder, appreciate life for what it is.

The setting is Grover's Corners, a typical if fictional New Hampshire hamlet at the turn of the century. The audience is led through a philosophical and heartwarming 13-year passage that begins in 1901. The story is narrated by a stage manager (Ashley Betton) and follows the Gibbs and Webb families through the twists and turns of daily life, love and marriage, and eternal life.

Emily Webb (Kitt Anderson), the smartest student in the county, and popular baseball jock George Gibbs (Tom Miller) grow from awkward preteens to explorers seeking enlightenment and, finally, to adults looking out into the world.

Betton was captivating, guiding the tour of "Our Town," while Anderson showed depth in understanding human nature as her character developed, and Miller realistically conveyed a witty teenager on the brink of manhood.

Technically, the show was simple, but in this case, a little went a long way. Train and animal sounds added a nice touch, placing the audience squarely in Grover's Corners. And the graveyard scene was visually intense, with all the actors carrying black umbrellas. The minimalist style--with few sets and props--worked well, allowing the play's concept to dominate. The intensity was heightened when the cast did not take a closing curtain call, leaving the audience "in the moment" with their thoughts--an effective device.

"How in the dark live people are," Emily Webb observes in "Our Town." Perhaps. But for a few hours, at least, everyone viewing this play was enlightened.

Amelia Kallman

Chantilly High School

The moon, the stars, love and death. What more do you need for an exciting evening?

Hayfield's production of "Our Town" was a delight. Ashley Betton carried the show with her outstanding monologues and presence as the stage manager; Kitt Anderson and Tom Miller were true-to-life as Emily and George; and Tom Terlecki, Kristine Kelly, Sam Wickham and Diana Cammarata (as Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs and Mr. and Mrs. Webb, respectively) were quite believable as middle-aged couples, a difficult feat in high school theater. Yasir Latifi (Professor Willard) had little stage time but made a delightfully funny professor.

Even with such outstanding individual performances, the overall strength of the cast is what made this show a success. By the end, I felt as if they all belonged together in their town.

In staging, no part of the auditorium was left untouched and no part was overused. The lighting was a nice change from the "general wash" normally seen in high school theater; however, it was difficult to see the actors in several scenes, and there were a few times when it seemed the lighting cues were missed.

Kirsten Clemmensen

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

CAPTION: Kitt Anderson and Tom Miller star as Emily Webb and George Gibbs in the Hayfield Secondary School production of "Our Town," Thornton Wilder's philosophical and heartwarming look at life and love in a small New Hampshire town.