Ordinary family life in the fictional turn-of-the-century town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, circa 1901-13, is the subject of Our Town by Thornton Wilder. But this three-act drama, whose segments are labeled “Act I: Daily Life,” “Act II: Love and Marriage,” and “Act III: Death and Eternity,” is anything but ordinary. Indeed, its Broadway-debut production won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
The current Raleigh Little Theatre production of this masterpiece of Modern Drama, which will complete its three week run on April 15-18 and April 22-25 in RLT’s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, features passionate performances by Steven Herd and Allison Powell as plucky young George Gibbs and the lovely girl-next-door Emily Webb. He chases her until she catches him in a series of light-and-lively scenes, which makes all the more poignant the tragic turn that their lives take later on.
Jackson Prather and Debra Zumbach Grannan are amusing as George’s parents doctor Frank and Julia Gibbs, and Timothy Cherry and Jo Brown are a treat as Emily’s parents newspaperman Charles and Myrtle Webb, married twice as long as George’s parents but no less in love — despite all the bickering.
Brent Wilson as bitter alcoholic choirmaster Simon Stimson, Krystyn Wells as gossipy Louella Soames, Brian Gill as milkman Howie Newsome, Randy Jordan as Professor Willard, and Jake Ferrell as Constable Warren add crisp cameos, while Chris Brown makes a genial master of ceremonies as the omniscient Stage Manager, whose low-key, matter-of-fact commentary on the triumphs and tragedies of the residents of Grover’s Corners plucked at the heartstrings of RLT audiences on Friday night.
The pleasing assortment of early 20th century outfits created by costume designer Vicki Olson is another big plus for Raleigh Little Theatre’s production of Our Town; the only minus was that scenic and lighting designer Rick Young’s minimalistic set was not quite minimalistic enough. Too many chairs and too many tables and platforms, constructed of boards and sawhorses, crowded the Sutton Theatre stage and made director Haskell Fitz-Simons’ job of orchestrating the action more difficult. Fewer furnishings would be better, and entirely in the spirit of this sparsely furnished but poetic modern epic of birth, life, and death in a small town.
For details, see our theater calendar.