No doubt New York City offers theatre-goers more interesting theatrical experiences and choices than any other city in the world.
You can choose from non-stop, toe-tapping musical productions with elaborate costumes and lavish stage settings. You can see comedies, dramas, circus-like stage entertainers and even Vegas-style shows that shake the theatre with excitement.
But when it comes to just great writing, excellent acting, and a simple but stylish theatre formula it’s hard to top the Thornton Wilder classic 1938 play, Our Town.
For the last year and a half, Our Town has been playing at the small (about 150 seats) Barrow Street Theatre in downtown Greenwich Village. It officially closes on September 12th so you need to hurry over to see this magnificent David Cromer directed production.
The intimate size of the theatre works extremely well as Our Town brings you back to the simpler times in America. A time when residents of the fictional New Hampshire town of Grover’s Corners simply have to deal with choir practice, farming, milk deliveries, schooling, even publishing the local newspaper.
No matter where you’re sitting, you’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of the town folks. Be careful because when the imaginary horse-drawn milk cart comes by, your feet could get in the way. And when the paperboy throws his newspaper, you may feel like ducking your head.
Our Town is introduced and narrated throughout by the Stage Manager. Director Cromer is currently playing the role but at my matinee performance, Scott Parkinson had the role and he was simply outstanding.
In the beginning, the Stage Manager comes out holding up a cell phone and sets the opening scene pointing over there to where the school is, over here where the church is. He begins taking us on a tour of the homes of the neighbors–the Gibbs and Webb families-each home simply consists of nothing more than a wooden table and a few chairs. Our Town starts on a May morning in 1901. Acts 1, 2 and 3 take place over a decade-plus period of time that follows the simpler storied life and personalities of the residents. Through scenes take place at a wedding, in the cemetery and especially, the surprising Act III return home (note the sizzle and aroma of what’s cooking for breakfast), you may find yourself on the verge of tears (feel free to grab a few tissues from the convenient box just outside the theatre door in the lobby).
During intermission, before or after the show, take a look at a copy of the Thornton Wilder letter on display where he wrote how people were lining up to get into the theatre back in 1938 to see his play.
Times haven’t changed, nor should they.