Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Our Town"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2002 by Tony Annicone

"Our Town"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The closing show of the URI Theatre season is Thorton Wilder's, 1938 Pulitzer prize winning 3 act play, "Our Town". It tells about life in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire from 1901 to 1913. This version features four 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. Bryna Wortman directs her 23 member cast beautifully in their proper accents, their pantomiming of props and in their transitions from act to act. She creates gorgeous picture postcard moments throughout this show, making its message of live every moment of your life to the fullest, true for the 21st Century, too.

Bryna has set designer, Patrick Lynch use wood textured set pieces to create the atmosphere for the show. Trellises, ladders, platforms and boxes plus tables and chairs, are easily moved around keeping the action flowing from one scene to another. A circle painted on the stage floor represents the world, Bryna wants us to see and the cyclorama adds the needed colors to brighten up this world. The splendid lighting is by Christian Wittwer with the star lighting at the close of the show, being very effective in creating the emotional impact. Another outstanding part is the fantastic period costumes by David T. Howard which range from the ladies gorgeous wedding attire to their everyday housedresses as well as the men's outfits. The young girls gingham dresses and the boy's clothing with knickers are another feather in David's cap. Another strong part of the show is the sound by David Roy with the actors movements timed properly with the sound cues. Bryna and her staff at URI complete her vision of this production with resounding results.

The character of the stage manager is divided among four talented performers who do an amazing job as a Greek chorus. Adam Wasserman, Sarah Feeley, Sean McConaghy and Erin Olson plays these parts with great energy and panache. They set up the scenes of the show and tell the other characters what to do. They all play their character roles beautifully, moving in and out of scenes with ease. Kudos to a talented foursome who give theatre a great name.

The main characters of "Our Town" are George Gibbs, a doctor's son and Emily Webb, a daughter of a newspaper editor. The play covers their life together from childhood to courtship and marriage to the funeral at show's end. They are next door neighbors who in Act 1, look at the moon and the stars together from their respective homes, in the most beautiful post card scene, all done while they stand on ladders. Seth Allen, a former engineering major, now a comparative literature and theatre major, does a wonderful job, transforming himself from young boy, to teenager and finally into adulthood. He handles his part with the comic and dramatic moments with the ease of a veteran performer. Seth's nervousness at the wedding and his talk with his in-laws on the same day are very funny. Heidi Beckmann as Emily, shines in this role. She makes you laugh with her young girl antics in Act 1 and then tears your heart out with the poignant graveyard revelation scene in Act 3. Her relationship with Seth as George comes through strongly especially in the sodashop and wedding scenes in Act 2. Heidi is a very talented actress who gives depth to any role she is given whether it be a drama, comedy or muscial. This is one more role which proves Heidi has a great career in theatre ahead of her.

The roles of the parents are played wonderfully by these students. Both Pamela Calci as Mrs. Webb and Elizabeth Gotauco as Mrs. Gibbs do incredible work in their miming, cooking the breakfast scenes. They actually look like they are using real food in them. Pamela and Elizabeth also show the warmth between mother and child and husband and wife throughout the show, too. Matthew Hobin as Dr. Gibbs and Seth Remington as Mr. Webb play their roles well. Matthew has a funny scene with his son when he tells him, his mother has been chopping the wood and Seth has one on his daughter's wedding day by telling the groom what his father told him but he didn't listen to him, leading to a successful marriage. The younger siblings are well played by Nicole Necoechea as the pesky, Rebecca Gibbs who bothers her brother when he flirts with Emily at his bedroom window and Richard Sliwinski as Wally Webb who likes to read at the breakfast table.

Another standout is Adam Crowe, who will be doing summer stock in Vermont, as the drunken choir director, Simon Stimson, He directs the choir, yells at them and leads them in "Blessed Be The Ties That Bind", the theme for this family show. Adam also shows his dramatic flair in the cemetary scene. A scene stealer in this show is Kathleen Arroraci as Mrs. Soames. She gossips with the ladies after choir rehearsal. She tells the audience what a lovely wedding it is during the sacred vows of the couple, making it the funniest one of all. The milkman, Howie Newsome is played by Zack Geoffroy, who does a great job while leading his invisible horse thru the town while delivering milk. His tugs on the reins and his prodding the horse along, is a hoot. Rounding out the cast are Brad Kirton, Richard Madison, (who plays a loudmouth questioning Mr. Webb) Karen Holt, Don Cornell, Francis Boyle, Allison Panissidi, Simon Hood and Kristine Danielian.

So for an outstanding college presentation of a classic show, be sure to catch "Our Town" at the University of Rhode Island. Make sure you hurry before it gets sold out, tell them Tony sent you.

"Our Town" (till 27 April)
Robert E. Will Theatre, Upper College Road, KINGSTON, RHODE ISLAND
1 (401) 874-5843

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide