Reflecting the cycle of life, “Our Town” is a play that ends in death. And much like that cycle, viewers are subjected to a spectrum of emotions ranging from love and laughter, to sadness through its course. This play represents the commonplace, everyday occurrences that most people don’t notice: the interaction of family, friends and neighbors. But as “Our Town” reveals, these aspects of life are more extraordinary than they are often perceived.
“Our Town,” directed by David Wheeler, is a component of the Yuba College Cultural Events Series. The play is also a companion piece to “The Laramie Project” scheduled to premier next spring, also directed by Wheeler. While “Our Town” is set in the small New Hampshire town of Grovers Corner, most of the play is confined to the houses of two families in the spotlight.
As the story takes place in 1901, its setting may seem a bit old fashioned. But the ideas and messages of “Our Town” are timeless, accounting for the play’s continued popularity since its first production in 1938.
“Our Town” doesn’t contain the fantasy plot twists of a Shakespearean play. While it may seem that little happens during the performance, a close analysis will reveal otherwise. Bonds between father and son are strengthened, new love is formed, and lessons are learned subtly.
The scenery in this production was sparse, but cleverly utilized. One wouldn’t think a small town could be produced from a few tables, a couple of ladders, and a gazebo, but Wheeler has shown that it can. The town of Grovers Corner was first described, then left to the imagination of the audience. An imaginary cow was led across the stage in what amounts to a very convincing portrayal. A few make-believe chickens even battled for time in the spotlight.
The acting was strong throughout “Our Town,” tied together by the excellent stage voice and Mark Twain-like delivery of Jay Drury, the play’s narrator.
The characters of two children in the focus of the last two acts were played convincingly, and with passion. Two intermissions and available cookies did, however, remind the audience that it was watching a performance.
A play is only as good as its director, and Wheeler successfully brought this play to our college.
“Our Town” ends with a graveyard scene and a speech from the protagonist. Considering the final setting, the play’s conclusion isn’t a particularly happy ending. But it’s true to life. The message of “Our Town” is a wake up call, one that can leave the viewer both saddened and hopeful.