(photo credit: South Coast Rep)
Written by Patrick Chavis
South Coast Repertory’s rendition of Our Town explores small-town life: its joys, sorrows, and human connection.
The Stage Manager, played by Hal Landon Jr., narrates this play. Think of the Stage Manager as an eternal historian of the town. We get what’s similar to a documentary of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, from beginning to end. We mainly focus on two families within this documentary, the Gibbs family and the Webb family. There are other characters in the town, but they are not the play’s primary focus.
The play is three acts, and each act is associated with a significant period in human life. The characters throughout talk about very relatable material. Mrs. Gibbs, played by Kwana Martinez in one scene, hangs out with Mrs. Webb, played by Elyse Mirto, and they have a conversation about making money and finally vacationing in Paris someday. There’s a conversation expressing worry about Simon Stimson, played by Brad Culver, the choir director, and known town drunkard. One of my favorite moments in this play is the talk between Mr. Webb, played by Michael Manuel, and George Gibbs, played by Evan Lugo. Mr. Webb is the bride’s father, and it’s right before George is about to get married to Emily Webb, played by Grace Morrison. The actors do an incredible job of making the scene awkward, funny, and honest.
These kinds of moments, simple human moments, make this play what it is. Dare I say it, you could call this play dated, and it wouldn’t be untruthful. Still, it maintains relevance where plenty of plays haven’t. There are strong themes in this play about the human experience, and the way playwright Thorton Wilder tapped into these themes remains quite powerful.
Scenic Designer Efren Delgadillo, Jr.’s set mimics the aesthetic theme, simple and nostalgic. You walk into the theatre and see a blank stage, nothing but a light bulb on a wheel and a black background. The actual set consists of wooden tables and chairs, gazebos, and two moveable staircases on each side of the stage. In the 3rd act, there’s a surprise change to the set that stands out, but it’s very tasteful.
The central heart of the show is the relationship between George Gibbs and Emily Webb, and both actors do an excellent job expressing young love to the audience. The acting is quaint and genuine.
The direction by Beth Lopes is very subtle and relaxed, and that’s exactly what a show such as this needs.
There’s not much conflict or spicy drama in this show, and some things are left unresolved. So this might not be the show for someone used to more exciting fare, but it is something worthwhile.
“We’re all People, before we’re anything else. People, even before we’re artists. The role of being a person is sufficient to have lived and died for.” – Thorton Wilder