Entertainment » Theatre

Our Town

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Mar 25, 2019
David Rabinow and Andrew Iacovelli in "Our Town," at the Burbage Theatre Company through April 7.
David Rabinow and Andrew Iacovelli in "Our Town," at the Burbage Theatre Company through April 7.  

Burbage Theatre Company's superlative production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" does justice to one of the most beloved plays in the history of American theater.

Director Mark Peckham has generated outstanding performances from the large ensemble cast and stages the action with style and imagination by seating his actors among the members of the audience.

The story begins in 1901. Grover's Corners is a small New Hampshire town populated by a variety of colorful individuals. There's the good-natured paperboy Joe Crowell (Brian Kozak), the slightly eccentric Professor Willard (Liz Hallenbeck), the milkman Howie Newsome (Jona Cedeno), the undertaker Jo Stoddard (Michelle Walker), and Constable Warren (Walter Cotter).

The women sing in the choir and spread rumors about the troubled choir director (Andrew Stigler).

The two prominent families are the Webbs and the Gibbs. We meet young George (Andrew Iacovelli) and Emily (Valerie Westgate) who grow and change through the years.

There's a lovely scene where Iacovelli and Westgate stand on the top of ladders to simulate George and Emily looking at each other from their bedroom windows. They develop a relationship and get married.
As the years pass, some of the inhabitants of the town meet tragic ends, either by war or other unusual circumstances.

The Stage Manager (a genial Vince Petronio) serves as our tour guide and plays various townspeople.

The supporting actors excel in their roles, especially Paula Faber as gossipy busybody Mrs. Soames, who provides commentary at George and Emily's wedding.

David Rabinow ("Futurity") is likable as Emily's loving father, who serves as the editor of the town newspaper.

Emily Lewis and Melissa Sciara Penick bring conviction and grace to their portrayals of Mrs. Gibbs and Mrs. Webb.

The boyishly handsome Iacovelli is perfect as George, an earnest young man who wants to make the most of his life.

Westgate conveys a sweet vulnerability and handles Emily's climactic monologue very well. It's undeniably compelling to see Emily's anguish as she deals with the fate which has been given to her.

The play is staged "in the round" for the first two acts. The seating in the theater is reconfigured for the third act, which is elegiac and haunting in its simplicity.

What's notable about "Our Town", written in 1938, is its' self-referential quality which fits in well with our cynical society. Wilder takes a gentle poke at our expectations of what theater is supposed to be.

For example, there are no sets, but Petronio displays paintings of Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs' gardens to satisfy the audience's need for some scenery.

"Our Town" is a tribute to what America used to be, before we all got so caught up in our obsessions with money and success. Grover's Corners reminds us of a more innocent world, filled with the hopes and dreams of young lovers. Wilder suggests we should stop worrying about trivial matters and spend more time with our families before they leave us forever.

"Our Town" runs through April 7. Burbage Theatre Company. 249 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket. For tickets, go to www.burbagetheatre.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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