While you can study a play and process it intellectually, it takes a great cast and great direction to bring to life the emotion and the power that the play lacks when just reading it. The Grand Theatre’s production of “Our Town” does just that. It makes the power of Thornton Wilder’s vision accessible, palpable and alive for audiences that are lucky enough to experience it.
“Our Town” is a forward thinking play that was first performed 76 years ago. Its three acts are bound together with the convention of a stage manager who tells the story and controls the action. This allows the actors and the stage manager to address the audience directly.
The structure may seem a little foreign, but it works, especially with an unobtrusive, mild and friendly performance given by Robert Scott Smith as stage manager, who is on stage for the entire performance.
The Dickensian third act is unexpected for those who have never seen the play. On the creepy side, the third act is where “Our Town” hits its message hard and lets the audience know which day to relive if given a chance and why.
Haeleigh Royall shines in the second and third act as her character, Emily Webb, strikes all of the right emotions and conveys innocence and intelligence. Her performance is most powerful when she is awkwardly nervous on her first date with George Gibbs played by Cody V. Thompson. Royall creates a thoroughly fascinating Emily who is at once complicated and simple.
Veteran actor David Hanson delivers what he has brought to the Grand Theatre every time he has participated in a play. As Editor Webb, he is informative and proud of Grover’s Corners, even if it is a slow town where nothing happens. His appropriately awkward interaction with Thompson is one of Hanson’s most memorable scenes.
Robin E. Young sparkles in the first act as Rebecca. Her role is small, but she brings a charismatic presence to the stage that cannot be ignored.
Matt Bowden’s understated performance as Wally Webb brings the necessary gravity to his situation when it is required. He is vibrant in the first act and dead in the third – which is just as it should be.
If you have ever wondered what could be done with a backdrop, six chairs, a couple of risers, pews and tables, this is the play to see. Every other set piece is shown through pantomime and must be constructed in the imagination of the audience.
Even if the citizens of Grover’s Corners think that nothing remarkable ever happens there, it is only because they are missing what is truly remarkable about their town and their lives.
“Our Town” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 and from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8. There is a matinee showing scheduled for Feb. 1 and Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. The run time is about 2 and a half hours, including two intermissions. Salt Lake Community College students can get a free ticket with their OneCards.
The Grand Theatre’s production is part of The Grand Theatre’s American Theater Classic series funded by the Cultural Visions Fund.