What if you were “weaned away from life” while giving birth to your second child and after being buried amongst family and friends in the local cemetery you wanted to return home to have one last look at what happened on your twelfth birthday because you were just not ready “not to wake up”. That’s Emily Webb’s third act dilemma in the most wonderful production of Thornton Wilder’s OUR TOWN which has been given a remarkable and inventive revival at the Barrow Street Theatre, under the inspired and most original, fluid direction of David Cromer who also appears as the Stage Manager.
The Barrow Street Theatre has been reformatted – audience is on three sides of the small center acting area. It is akin to attending a community meeting of the population of Grover’s Corner in the high school gymnasium. Two tables and some chairs make do for the set. The overhead lights, hardly theatrical lighting, are kept up throughout most of the first act, then they are dimmed. The actors intermingle with the audience. Walking between the aisles and you feel that you are an integral part of the intimate proceedings. Thornton Wilder must be chatting up a storm with his cemetery friends about this one. It is absolutely astounding.
With searing honesty the cast of twenty four with the able assist of the Stage Manager who breaks the action and the fourth wall – speaking to the audience and explaining and commenting on the action we are transformed into this world where family values come first. Where we witness the lives of Dr. Gibbs and newspaper editor Charles Webb and their respective families. We feel the emotions that young Emily Webb and her neighbor young George Gibbs are experiencing through homework assignments, ice cream sodas, baseball practice, love and marriage, death and loss. A vivid time capsule of all their lives – from 1901 through 1913.
A thousand years from now this play will still resonate with its real and heartfelt sentiments. This is the way they were, living and dying. This is what is really important. Being happy with your loved ones. How life should be valued. It all passes too quickly.
Every family should see this incredibly moving production where we are told that in order to love life we have to have life and to have life we have to love life and that we should not be blind to what is important. To really look at each other to really listen to one another and to love one another before it is no longer possible to do that. It’s a beautifully written, theatrical text that is brought to its full potential by this incredible ensemble cast.
Our Town is a must see.