note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
OUR TOWN is one of the most revered plays of the American classic theater---and the Wellesley Summer Theatre Company does Thornton Wilder proud (playing at Wellesley College thru June 28th). His extraordinary portrait of “ordinary lives” is lovingly brought to life by Nora Hussey’s talented resident actors. I’ve encountered only one female narrator in the dozens of OUR TOWNs I’ve seen--- but Wellesley gives us a pair of women to guide us through several generations in Grovers Corners, New Hampshire. Wilder calls his narrator “the Stage Manager” because (s)he moves the action along, interrupts characters at will and even interacts with the audience.
Charlotte Peed and Lisa Foley make splendid guides. They’re wise and compassionate and their wry Yankee humor makes you feel you really are in the granite state. Foley slyly points out Ken Loewit’s solid maple arch over the playing area “for those of you who feel they need scenery.” What’s lovely, and immensely clever about OUR TOWN, is the bare bones immediacy the actors create just with gestures and a few set pieces.
Wilder’s play is immensely poetic, in its epic ‘life and death’ scope and in its simple but elegant descriptions of the joys and sorrows of life at the turn of the century. The actors handle the rhythms of that New Hampshire drawl perfectly: the slow, thoughtful cadences of replies and the blunt, plain speech common to small towns up north of Boston. Heather Boas and Zach Bubulo are the charming teenagers who fall in love, get married and start a new generation. Both Boas and Bubulo give deft performances, maturing into adults before our eyes. And of course there’s a whole town watching.
We meet their parents: John Davin as the crusty but warm hearted doctor and Sarah Barton as his patient, caring wife; Dan Bolton as the lively newspaperman and Christine Hamel as his spirited wife. We meet a kindly milkman in Benjamin Small and the friendly constable of Marc Harpin. Will Keary gives a melancholy performance as the alcoholic choir master and Eric Hamel makes several denizens of Grovers Corners unforgettable…and we come away with a little piece of nostalgia and a reminder to cherish the short time we have here on earth.