Alibi V.27 No.41 • Oct 11-17, 2018

Theater Review

Everytown, USA

Our Town has something important to share

Jordon Olguin and Zoey Reese
Zoey Reese stars as Emily and Jordon Olguin as George in Our Town.
Jason Ponic Photography
“Do any human beings ever realize life as they live it?” Asks Emily Webb, the proverbially “girl next door” in Thornton Wilder’s Pulitizer Prize-winning 1938 play Our Town. The question is planted in the mind of the audience from the very beginning of the piece, which is now playing at Musical Theatre Southwest (6320 Domingo Rd. NE, Ste. B) where Mother Road Theatre Company is currently in residency.

In Grover’s Corners, the fictional, mundane small town where the predictable lives of its citizens play out, nothing much ever happens. Grover’s Corners is actually a stand-in for everywhere on the planet in this metatheatrical meditation on time and human nature. In Mother Road’s production, the spare stage—two sets of rolling stairs and a few chairs—is cosmically themed, a fitting representation of the microcosm that is Our Town.

The intellectual heart of the play is the Stage Manager, here played expertly by Kristín Hansen, the god of this tiny world; she is omniscient and directs this very self-aware play. In it, women string beans, go to choir practice and admire the heliotrope under the full moon. Men play baseball and act as doctors, ushering new babies into the eternal little town. In three acts—one that examines the life as it is starting in 1901, then jumping ahead to examine love and marriage a few years later in act two, and finally arriving at the end—death—in the third—the play, though penned more than 50 years ago, approaches questions that are significant and timeless.

Kristín Hansen
Kristín Hansen as the Stage Manager in Our Town.
There is well-paced, unhurried poetry in the script that matches the pace of life in Grover’s Corners. But that’s the heart of the dilemma—that life passes without us hardly noticing. We are born, we grow up, we marry, we have children of our own perhaps, we die. As two central characters are wed—Emily Webb and George Gibbs—the Stage Manager notes that that story is interesting “maybe once in a thousand times,” and then, “well, let’s have Mendelsohn’s Wedding March.”

Throughout the predictable, banal drama the Stage Manager carries the big truths—the meaninglessness of war and even marriage—the “human nonsense” that fills our days, and what ultimately weighs on us. The silly little things that trouble us and sap the wonder from our few days on Earth.

Under the duel leadership of directors Vic Browder and Colin Jones—and through Hansen’s pitch-perfect narration—these themes sing. Amid the nearly empty stage, the large cast effectively pantomimes action, and sound is used to amplify and clarify the action. The staging further underlines the way the play looks inward on itself, aware that it is theater and nothing more—but simultaneously, that it is art, and it is reaching for great things.

I’m of the opinion that it achieves those grand aims—revealing to us the smallest glimmer of how dazzling life is and how tragically habituated to it we can become. My best friend and I stepped out into the night and I felt the moral in my soul—how beautiful the waning moon, how comforting the presence of a friend, how delightful the future and how present I want to be for it.

Catch the thoughtful vibes of Our Town during its tenure at MTS courtesy of Mother Road through Sunday, Oct. 21. Tickets start at $15 and can be found at motherroad.org.

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