Theatre Mirror Reviews - "OUR TOWN"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2017 by Tony Annicone



”OUR TOWN”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Mansfield Arts and Music Society's first show in 2017 is "Our Town", Thorton Wilder's 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning play. The show tells the life of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire from 1901 to 1913. This version is intimate, engaging and timely. It features a female stage manager who not only explains the actions of the characters but becomes part of the show herself. Through the use of flashbacks, dialogue and direct monologues, the other characters reveal themselves to the audience, walk through the audience and interact with them at times. Director Adam Joy picks the best performers to play these roles and molds them into these townsfolk that the audience can identify with. He has them pantomiming the props and handles the transitions from scene to scene beautifully. Adam makes its message to live each day to the fullest ring true in the 21st century, too.

Dori Bryan-Ployer is dynamic as the Stage Manager. She plays her part with great energy and conviction, commanding the stage in this role. Dori sets up the scenes of the show and tells the other characters what to do. She plays all her characters excellently, moving in and out of the scenes with ease. The main characters of "Our Town" are George Gibbs, a doctor's son and Emily Webb, a newspaper editor's daughter. The play covers their lives together from childhood to courtship and marriage to death with a funeral at the end of the show. They are next door neighbors who look at the moon and the stars from their respective bedroom windows. Michael Bradley does a wonderful job with the dramatic and comic moments, transforming himself from young boy to teen and finally into adulthood. His nervousness at the wedding and his talk with his in-laws on the same day are very funny. His crying at the grave scene is brilliantly done. Cj Hawes plays Emily and shines in this role. She makes you laugh at her young girl antics in Act 1 and then tears your heart out with the poignant graveyard revelation in Act 3. Her reflection back on her 12th birthday tugs at your heartstrings. Her relationship with George comes through strongly especially in the argument in the soda shop and in the wedding scene.

The roles of the parents are played wonderfully, too. Katia Greene as Mrs. Webb and Rachel Morandi as Mrs. Gibbs do incredible work with their miming in the cooking of the breakfast scenes. They actually look like they are using real food in them. They also show the warmth between mother and child as well as husband and wife. Patrick Murphy and Ty Waterman as Mr. Webb and Dr. Gibbs play their roles very well, too. Ty has a funny scene with George when he tells him that his mother has been chopping the fire wood when it is really George's responsibility. Patrick also has a funny one with George on their wedding day by telling him what his father told him on how to have a successful marriage. Mr. Webb ignored his dad's advice and had a successful marriage ever since. The younger siblings are well played by Elinor Ault as the pesky, Rebecca Gibbs who bothers her brother when he is flirting with Emily at his bedroom window in Act 1 and Thomas Stapleton as Wally Webb. (A tear jerking moment occurs during brother and sister in the last act. )Three scene stealers in the show are Greg Smith as Simon Stimson, the drunken choir director, Will Candler as Professor Willard and Shannon Dwyer as Mrs. Soames. He directs the choir, yells at them and leads them in "Blessed Be the Tie That Bind" which leads to much laughter. The song is also sung at the wedding and funeral with much different results at each of them. Will is a hoot as he describes Grover's Landing directly to the audience. Shannon is hilarious as Mrs. Soames who likes to gossip with the other ladies after choir rehearsal and in the wedding scene tells the audience what a lovely wedding it is during the sacred vows of the couple. So for a splendid look back at a Pulitzer Prize winning play that still resonates with contemporary audiences, be sure to catch "Our Town" at the Black Box at MMAS. Tell them Tony sent you.

OUR TOWN (20 January to 5 February)
MMAS, 377 North Main Street, Mansfield, MA
1(508)339-2822 or www.mmas.org




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