Thornton Wilder’s masterpiece of modern drama,
Our Town, is a deceptively difficult play to stage successfully,
because it requires a large supporting cast capable of transforming their fleeting cameo roles into unforgettable characters. This powerful and poetic three-act play,
which won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, delivers three juicy slices of turn-of-the-century American life in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, circa 1901 until 1913.
Wilder labeled Act I “Daily Life,” Act II “Love and Marriage,” and Act III “Death and Eternity.” But to squeeze every delicious drop from
Our Town requires a talent pool deeper and broader than the
Towne Players of Garner have tapped for their current community-theater production.
Opening-night jitters arrived a day late for Towne Players mainstay Holmes Morrison, who struggled
all Saturday evening — and frequently failed — to remember his lines as the omniscient, nearly omnipresent Stage Manager, who narrates the show and summons the rest of
the cast to act out selected scenes in the lives of bashful high school baseball star-turned-farmer George Gibbs (played by Jackson Honeycutt) and
the brainy girl-nextdoor, Emily Webb (portrayed by CeeCee Huffman), whom George chases until she catches him.
While Holmes Morrison was experiencing the actor’s nightmare live onstage, Jackson Honeycutt and CeeCee Huffman
were charming Towne Players patrons with their cute old-fashioned courtship. Meanwhile, Tim Stancil and Leslie Dahlin were provoking
chuckles as George’s prickly physician father, Civil War buff Dr. Frank Gibbs, and his restless wife, the fomer Julia Hersey, who wants to bankroll a trip for the two
of them to Paris with the unexpected windfall that she received when she sold Grandmother Wentworth’s highboy to the dawn of the 20th century version of
“American Pickers” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz.
Daniel Barth injects even more personality into his pithy portrait of Charles Webb, the crusty editor of the
local newspaper; but Rebecca Stiles is out of her depth trying to impersonate Emily Gibbs’ mother, Myrtle, and her characterization is bland.
Jason Weeks likewise fails to make much of a mark as troubled church organist and choirmaster Simon Stimson,
but Verlene Oates provides some comic relief as town busybody Louella Soames.
Towne Players artistic director Beth Honeycutt,
who staged a more successful production of Our Town in 2004, still has a lot of work to do to whip the current ensemble into shape. As it is, they fail to do
justice to one of the masterpieces of the American theater — and that’s a shame.
The Towne Players present OUR TOWN at
8 p.m. April 25 and 26 and 2 and 8 p.m. April 27 in Garner Performing Arts Center, 742 W. Garner Rd., Garner, North Carolina 27529. TICKETS: $15 ($12 students and seniors). BOX OFFICE: General-admission tickets will be sold at the door and online at
http://www.garnerperformingartscenter.com/TPG.asp. GROUP RATES/INFORMATION: 919-779-6144. SHOW/SEASON: http://www.towneplayers.org/performances/current-season/. PRESENTER: http://www.towneplayers.org/. VENUE: http://www.garnerperformingartscenter.com/. DIRECTIONS: http://www.garnerperformingartscenter.com/Directions.asp. OTHER LINKS: Our Town (play) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Town (Wikipedia). The Script (with foreword by Donald Margulies): http://books.google.com/ (Google Books). Study Guide http://www.bard.org/education/studyguides/OurTown/town.html (Utah Shakespeare Festival). Thorton Wilder (playwright): http://www.twildersociety.org/ (Thorton Wilder Society) and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thornton_Wilder (Wikipedia). Beth Honeycutt (director): https://www.facebook.com/beth.honeycutt2 (Facebook page).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Review, a FREE weekly e-mail arts newsletter. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Review.
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