By Thornton Wilder
Directed by: Alan K. Sapp
Performances: November 16-19, 2005
Venue: Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages Building
Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town was truly an unconventional piece of drama when it was first presented in 1938. The originality of Wilder's piece is defined in his simple set directions: "No curtain. No scenery." In an era of theatre identified by frivolous musicals and screwball comedies with elaborate sets, Wilder's minimalistic approach (a production without any scenery and very few props) was quite revolutionary. Without the distractions of a complex set design, audiences of Our Town are able to focus on Wilder's powerful tale, often described as "the tragedy of time." Despite the potentially alienating lack of scenery and props, Wilder's play has managed to captivate audiences for nearly seventy years, welcoming young and old alike to join the community of Our Town.
Our Town is a glimpse of a small New Hampshire town named Grover's Corners, and the events that unfold there around the turn of the century. The town is small, with a population of 2 642, and its citizens form a close-knit community. The central figure guiding the audience through the events onstage is that of the Stage Manager, a rather unusual figure. The Stage Manager narrates and manipulates the events onstage, shifting time at his whim and providing commentary on what's happening. The action begins on "May 7, 1901. The time is just before dawn." The Stage Manager titles Act One "Daily Life", and the audience is shown the heart of Grover's Corners. Through the events unfolding onstage, one experiences the exciting and the mundane, the unusual and the everyday. Men go about their business, women go about their daily household tasks, and children vie for attention from parents and sometimes that "special someone." We also catch brief glimpses of the darker world permeating Grover's Corners, a world of unfulfilled dreams and drowning sorrows.
"Love and Marriage" is the title of the second act and our second journey into Grover's Corners. "Three years have passed," according to the Stage Manager, "... the sun's come up over a thousand times." Some things are just as they were. The men continue their business and the women continue their never-ending housework. But some things have changed: children have grown up, friendships have blossomed into romances, and the entire town is busily awaiting the greatest of celebrations, a wedding. Amidst the joys of this wonderful event are shadows of looming fears - the fear of change, the fear of leaving behind the life you once knew, the fear of what the future may bring. In this act, the young protagonists question whether they truly are ready to face the world.
Our third and final journey into Grover's Corners is one that the Stage Manager refuses to name. She merely states, "I reckon you can figure what [it's] about." It is now the summer of 1913, and nine more years have passed. In fulfillment of the fears alluded to in the previous acts, much has changed in Grover's Corners. New babies have been born and some familiar faces are now gone. However, with the grimness of death comes a belated appreciation for living, and the stark realization of how we take life for granted.