Our Town is the one play everybody knows; it’s been done at almost every college, high school and community playhouse in the United States and still gets staged regularly. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just that the staging requirements (or lack thereof) make it a relatively low-cost show. The real reason we return to Our Town over and over again is because Thornton Wilder nailed it. He combined language and story in such a way—and with just enough self awareness, spiced with a dash of irony—to create a play that works on every level.Of course, even a great play can suffer in the hands of amateurs; fortunately, City Theatre’s production is far from having that problem. While the staging is as traditional as it gets, it was purely inspired to cast the experienced Martha Kight in the lead. Her stage manner strikes just the right balance—and Kight, who was fantastic in River Stage’s production of Urinetown earlier this year, uses her expressive gifts to full effect—to edge the rest of the players into honest sentiment while holding them back when they start to totter over into sentimentality. Kight softens her worldly wise smirk at just the right moment to carry the audience from irony into wistfulness and on through to wonder.
Other high points include the able Tim Sapunor’s turn as Dr. Gibbs, and believable (if idealized) portrayals of Mother Gibbs (Laura White) and Mother Webb (Melissa Verdugo). We’d all go home if one of those venerable ladies was waiting for us. Stephanie McCall’s Emily is suitably innocent—though her lines are the most strikingly dated. Even in previews, the pre-wedding scene between George Gibbs (Phillip Booth) and his future father-in-law, Mr. Webb (Jes Gonzales), is note-perfectly, heart-achingly funny.
Yes, it’s true, you can’t go wrong with a really good play, but it sure helps when you’ve got actors who bring some skill to it. This is a fresh and honest production, worthy of the time—and that’s a real gift for a familiar play approaching the century mark.