Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Going to ‘Our Town’

Even though it’s Thorton Wilder’s most memorable play, “Our Town” also has a reputation of being banal and dull.

But Harper Joy Theatre’s Family Weekend production of the play was met with surprisingly effusive praise by the community members, students and parents who attended the sold-out shows.

“Our Town” focuses on the modest lives of the inhabitants of the fictional Appalachian town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire.   Grover’s Corners is “an ordinary town, maybe a little duller than most,” where very ordinary things happen.   The characters all serve prototypical roles.   The town has a gossip, a drunk, some slightly bored but industrious wives and their caring husbands.   The two main characters, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, are young lovers and stand-outs in their small-town high school.   They even serve in student government together.

But Harper Joy’s Production, directed by theatre professor Cindy Croot, surprised many audience members.   Croot changed the play’s concept, making “Our Town” a 1939 radio broadcast of the play.

According to Rosie Brownlow who played Mrs. Webb, each member of the play had an actor and a character.   Their “character” was their Grover’s Corners member:   Emily Webb, George Gibbs, Mrs. Webb, Mrs. Gibbs.   But, their “actor,” who played each character on the radio, also had a backstory.   Between the “actors” there were ex-husbands, serial killers, lesbian trysts, illegitimate children and hidden ambitions.   These backstories played out behind the main action of Our Town.

During the crucial moments of the script: young Emily and George’s fears and anticipations of their marriage, Emily’s postmortem return to her twelfth birthday, and realization of the futility and cyclical nature of everyday life: Croot’s concept retreated.   This allowed the audience to fully concentrate on the power of the script.

The radio show concept paired with visually exquisite costumes and set provided a new dimension to the play that appealed to many audience members.

“I was pleasantly surprised.   I didn’t enjoy Our Town when I read it in high school…it’s really, really boring and has a depressing ending, but they thought outside the box in how to present a piece that everyone considers very banal.   And the acting was really excellent,” said senior Alison Meith.

First-year Kyle Scott echoed Meith’s reaction.   Scott said that he enjoyed the play “surprisingly enough…There were very few distractions and the message was conveyed effectively.”

Scott: an aspiring actor himself: raved about the actors’ abilities “to act such normal people, to act subtleties.”

Some were affected by the play on a more personal level.

Alum James Millikan, who grew up in a small town himself, praised the authenticity of Harper Joy’s production of Our Town.     “I thought they did a really good job at representing small town community.   I was moved by the sincerity of the actors.   They didn’t overact.   It left me thinking about my own community and relationships.”

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