Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Our Town"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"Our Town"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The current show at Rhode Island College Theatre is the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winning "Our Town" by Thorton Wilder. It tells about life in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire from 1901 to 1913. This version features three stage managers who not only explain the actions of the characters but they become part of the show itself. Through the use of flashback, dialogue and direct monologues the other characters reveal themselves to the audience. Director Linda Sutherland picks talented college performers and molds them into these townsfolk that everyone can identify with. She has them pantomiming the props and handles the transitions from scene to scene beautifully. Linda makes its message of live each day of life to the fullest ring true in the 21st Century, too.

The character of the stage manager is divided among three talented performers who do an amazing job as a Greek chorus. Chantell Arial, Sheli Escobar and Stevie Smith play these parts with great energy and panache. They set up the scenes of the show and move in and out of their character role scenes with ease. The main characters of this show are George Gibbs, a doctor's son and Emily Webb, a newspaper editor's daughter. The play covers their lives together from childhood to marriage to a funeral at the end of the show. They are next door neighbors who in Act 1 look at the stars from their respective homes. Salvatore Constantino does an excellent job as George. He makes the transitions from childhood to teenager to adulthood very convincingly. Salvatore handles the comic and dramatic moments with the ease of a veteran performer. His nervousness at the wedding with his mother is a poignant moment while his talk with the in-laws is a comical moment. The mischievous antics with his sister in the first act is marvelous, too. His crying at the graveyard is an outstanding dramatic moment in the show. Heron Kennedy as Emily shines in this role. She makes you laugh at her young girl antics in Act 1 and then tears your heart out during the poignant graveyard revelation scene in Act 3. Emily's relationship with George comes through strongly especially in the soda shop and wedding scenes in Act 2.

The roles of the parents are played wonderfully, too. Both Stephanie Barney as Mrs. Webb and Hollie Diorio as Mrs. Gibbs do terrific work in their miming of cooking the breakfast scene. They also show great warmth between mother and child as well as husband and wife throughout the show. Hollie is very touching in her dialogue in the last scene with her daughter-in-law. Neil Jeronimo as Mr. Webb and David Sackal as Dr. Gibbs play their roles very well, too. Funny moments include Mr. Webb telling George on his wedding day what his father told him and Mr. Webb didn't listen leading to a successful marriage. One of Dr. Gibbs comic moments occurs when he tells George that he saw his mother chopping fire wood when it was really George's responsibility.The younger siblings are well played by Hailey Carol O'Connor as the pesky, Rebecca Gibbs who bothers her brother when he flirts with Emily at his bedroom window and Nicholas D'Amico as Wally Webb who likes to read at the breakfast table.

Two of the biggest scene stealers in this show are Aaron Blanck as Simon Stimson, the drunken choir director and Esi Mensah as Mrs. Soames, the town gossip. He directs the choir, yells at them and leads them in "Blessed Be the Ties That Bind", the theme for this family show. She gossips with the ladies after choir rehearsal about Simon and then comments on how lovely the wedding is during the sacred vows of the couple. A word of praise for the students doing the sound effects from the side of the playing area. So for an outstanding college production of this classic show, be sure to catch "Our Town" at Rhode Island College.

"Our Town" (18 - 22 February)
@ 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue. PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide