Set in the fictional small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, “Our Town” is Thornton Wilder’s commentary on the magic and beauty of small-town life. University Theatre’s production of “Our Town” opened on Thursday, Sept. 26, and follows closely to Wilder’s original script and stage directions.
The play follows two prominent families in Grover’s Corners, the Webbs and the Gibbs. Emily Webb, played by Dani Coan, a second-year studying social work, is the daughter of the town newspaper’s editor-in-chief. George Gibbs, played by C.J. Rudolph, a second-year pursuing exploratory studies, is the son of the town’s doctor.
The play follows the budding romance between Emily and George over 12 years in Grover’s Corners. The romance is narrated by the Stage Manager, played by Nicole Hiemenz, a fourth-year studying fashion and textile management. The Stage Manager breaks the fourth wall and brings the audience into the story, helping them understand the more metaphysical aspects of the play while also reminding them that it is a play. While we were not a fan of this device as a whole, we understood its purpose, but at some points we felt it distracted from the narrative of the story.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the production was the love story between Emily and George, and we felt it exemplified Wilder’s intention of finding beauty in everyday life. It helped that Coan and Rudolph were excellent actors who were easily likeable and believable in their love for each other
The script itself helped these characters be so relatable. Had the costumes been updated, this play could have easily been set in 2019. The romance between George and Emily is the definition of a timeless romance, and Rudolph and Coan definitely understood and portrayed that.
The set was largely bare as per Wilder’s instructions except some chairs and tables to represent the Webb and Gibbs houses. There were no other props used other than a wire umbrella used by the Stage Manager and George Gibbs. This lack of props helped further the idea that this play could be set in any time period. Actors would mime hold props and the audience could imagine whatever they wanted for it to feel relatable to them.
The set itself was gorgeous while also utilitarian and conducive to the plot. The backdrop of the set was covered in stars that could be dimmed depending on the time of day. Stage Manager uses a map of Grover's Corners on the floor to describe the setting to the audience. In every scene, day or night, a massive, hand-painted moon hung over the cast. The moon became important to the love story and served as a reminder to the audience of the beauty in small-town life.
Act three initially felt rushed and unemotional, but the climax was one of the most emotional scenes that we have seen in a college production.
Overall the play was incredibly successful at portraying the intricacies and beauty of small-town America. The stage, props and actors all worked cohesively to bring a simple production to stage and to the audience. We highly recommend this production and commend Mia Self, the director of the production, for a job well done.