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Review - Our Town

Jim Dorman
The Patriot Ledger
November 13, 2008
Our Town Reviewed

A married couple enjoys one of countless meals together, a busy father arrives home in time for his daughter’s birthday, a milk man completes his daily deliveries and two teenagers fall in love over algebra; these are the simple, everyday experiences that Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" hopes we learn to appreciate.

No one in Grover’s Corners, the fictional turn-of-the-19th century southern New Hampshire town where "Our Town" is set, does anything exceptional. But, after seeing this play, you might think that everything they do is important.

"Our Town" allows its audience to peek into the lives of two families (the Webbs and the Gibbs) in Grover’s Corners and shows us how life evolves over 12 years. Our ubiquitous narrator the Stage Manager reminds us people get married, they live their lives, and (sometimes much too soon) they die. We see all this through the budding relationship of Emily Webb and George Gibbs, who know each other as children, fall in love, and get married; all with the love and support of their neighbors and families. But, just like in real life, no one lives forever.

The loveably creaky Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree presents "Our Town" again this weekend. Longtime local director Stacey Shanahan squeezes plenty of folksy charm and genuine pathos out of a large and diverse cast.

"Our Town" requires a bit more from its actors than most plays. Although they are dressed in period costumes (smartly designed by Meg Young; especially Emily’s wedding dress), there is little in the way of scenery and props. Besides a few tables and chairs, two ladders, a bunch of boxes and some nondescript walls, the actors and our own imagination are all we need to understand this story; although it can wear a bit thin, like when George and Emily sip imaginary ice cream floats from nonexistent straws at the invisible drugstore.

After a slow start, when lines were sometimes stepped on, or delivered without clarity and emphasis, the cast settles in, and the subtle power and emotion of "Our Town" casts its spell. By the time it’s over, you might be glad you remembered to bring a few tissues.

As Emily, Alison Hough is the main event in this production. Through Emily’s life and Hough’s portrayal of it, we learn the importance of every moment. Although Emily, like many teenage girls, is often insecure, or even melodramatic, she quickly becomes everything (beautiful, strong, understanding, supportive and optimistic) a father and mother would want in a daughter, and a young man like George Webb could hope for in a wife. Hough nails it.

Greggory Daniels is equally adept as George, a young man on the verge of adulthood, who needs a few kicks in the pants to help him over the last hurdles.

He gets one from Emily during the drugstore scene. He gets another from his wise mother as he works through some pre-wedding jitters.

Together, Daniels and Hough are a major strength of this production. Along with the Stage Manager (played with homespun appeal by John Sawyer, who should be commended for the amount of verbiage he was charged with conveying) the young couple’s parents are the other main characters in "Our Town."

Mike Tobin and Toni Ruscio show strength as Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs. Together they demonstrate the tremendously important and difficult role parents play in raising a family. Richard Carey and Margaret Cyr play Mr. and Mrs. Webb. Carey is charismatically engaging, and likeable as the busy newspaper editor who also supports the needs of his family and the people of Grover’s Corners, including concern for the Simon Stimson (Peter Kates), the troubled church organist and choir director. Cyr effectively portrays the raw emotions that come with the constant challenges of being a wife and mother.

Jim Daly as Howie Newsome, the reassuring milk man, and Jack Shanahan as young Joe Crowell, the paperboy, demonstrate the subtle comfort that comes with the rhythm of everyday events.

Kevin Moore, as Si Crowell, reminds us how much boys and girls idolize teenagers just a few years older than them.