Our Town

Rated 4.0 Our Town has disappeared. Once a community-theater staple, Thornton Wilder’s classic play about life at Grover’s Corners hasn’t been produced locally in many a year. Actor’s Theatre founder Ed Claudio can’t remember a single production in the 15 years he’s been in town. But Claudio is correcting the oversight with his theater’s version of Wilder’s simple tale of simple lives.There is a deceptive plainness and grace about Our Town. It’s 1913 in Grover’s Corners, N.H., when we’re introduced to the staid lives of two neighboring couples, the Gibbs and the Webbs, and their children George and Emily. The story is presented in three acts: “Daily Life,” “Love and Marriage” and “Death and Aftermath.” We’re merely witnesses to the mundane goings on of small-town life.

Wilder’s message is that life is a series of simple moments. When one of the characters dies and wants to revisit a moment of her life, she’s told to “choose the least important day; it’ll be important enough.” Wilder’s breakthrough in Our Town is his creation of a stage manager (Allen Schmeltz), who faces the audience and sets the visual scene by describing the town, its history and its inhabitants. There are no real sets; the actors mime props; action is stopped and started; and the past, present and future are not linear. It’s a brilliant concept, and it’s one director Anthony D’Juan pulls off with impressive results.

The cast members are students from Claudio’s acting classes, but that’s a bit misleading. Most give professional performances—the most notable being Schmeltz, as the stage manager; Brendon Barrett, as George; and Stephanie Altholz, who gives us a sweet yet wise Emily.