As a play, "Our Town" is beautifully subtle. It has no central plot or struggle, or even a moral, insomuch as life has a moral. It is merely an examination of people's lives in the quiet little town of Grover's Corners, N.H., as they work, play, fall in love and grow old. No good characters or bad characters, just people like you and me. This subtle commentary on life, love and death recently was captured beautifully by Westfield High School in its production of the classic play.
A woman just beginning to feel older feeds her chickens in the morning. Children go to school and play baseball. A boy and a girl kiss for the first time. This is a play of everyday lives and the people who lead them, submitted for the audience's inspection by two Stage Managers, liaisons between those in the audience and those on stage.
As the two Stage Managers, Branson Reese and Natalie McLarty gave solid performances in difficult roles. Reese and McLarty mastered the task of narrating an entire play while maintaining well-defined, entertaining characters, even getting some laughs for a particularly accurate imitation of a chicken.
Sarah Pike and Will Quinn, as the young lovers at the heart of the story, displayed a palpable rapport, especially when they discovered they were meant to be a couple, in a highly believable, tender moment.
The set and props were delightfully minimalist, with only an inclined plane for a stage and most props described in mime. The equally understated yet powerful lighting bathed the set in selected scenes in deep green and blue hues.
The gentle theme of the play was broken only twice by video segments shown on a retracting screen before each act. Although beautifully filmed, their use detracted from the simple, elegant nature of the production.
It's the eternal question, isn't it? Why are we here? What's the meaning of life? Thornton Wilder didn't know the answer when he wrote "Our Town" any more than we do, and he didn't pretend to, either. He just wanted to show life in all its ordinary wonders. His loving, fragile approach was so perfectly captured by Westfield's actors, who showed, even without an answer, the beauty of everyday life.
H-B Woodlawn Program
Westfield recently brought the heart of the American town to the stage with a performance of Thornton Wilder's timeless drama "Our Town."
The play is the story of Grover's Corners, a fictional town in New Hampshire where most of the townspeople have started and ended their lives. The boy next door, George Gibbs, falls in love and marries Emily Webb. Their families are normal folks who interact with the rest of the average early 20th-century townspeople.
Thornton Wilder received a Pulitzer for this avant-garde, abstract play. The play's original conceptions include a bare set, no props (where props should be) and a continual break of the fourth wall (a narrator addressing the audience and branching off from reality). Westfield's cast and crew embraced the experimental nature of "Our Town" by breaking away from the traditional production and making it their own.
The strength of the show was largely in the powerful interpretation of each character or group of characters. The church choir was beautiful, the funeral attendants solemn. The townspeople's movement and stage presence were natural and fluid. A single line from a woman walking down the street (Jade Jones) was memorable throughout the show.
Excellent and powerful performances came from the leading and supporting roles. As the sweet and vivacious Emily Gibbs, Sarah Pike evoked smiles and tears. As George Gibbs, Will Quinn portrayed a nervous teenager who couldn't do math, a youth in love and a husband bereaved. Both Mrs. Gibbs (Ashley Dillard) and Mrs. Webb (Abby Sykes) walked, talked and reprimanded like a mother. Brian Randall, who played Mr. Webb, had the humor and gentle devotion of the most tender of fathers.
The Spartan set permitted the crew to focus on such subtle details as the raked stage, the authenticity of costumes and the sound that glass milk containers make knocking against each other (even if the milk isn't actually there). Two sepia-toned videos were projected onstage, depicting countryside and visions of home, as a final testament to Westfield's ingenuity.
"Our Town" is a subtly done show that stirs and shakes, by taking the simplicity of the American town and American life and allowing a string of everyday events to end in the worst kind of everyday event, death. Westfield captured the essence of "Our Town" with smiles, laughs and tears, never missing a beat.
Herndon High School