Review by Tony Carter – Showbill.ca Writer
July 8, 2017
Our Town is an authentic slice of life story that really breathes thanks to the efforts of its cast, only being held back by the material that they had to work with.
For those unfamiliar with it, Our Town is one of the oldest American plays still in production, having first been performed in 1938. Since then it has been adapted into a variety of different mediums from the stage, the small screen and to the big screen. Playwright, Thornton Wilder, is criticized in his earlier works for writing “escapist fare that ignored the reality of the time and refused a political stance,” according to the Blue Bridge program. At least two of those criticisms still apply to Our Town.
The narrator explains early in the show that all we have left of some ancient civilizations are their plays, and with that in mind it seems clear what this play is supposed to be: it is a snapshot of a particular time in a particular place.
The audience is told a thorough explanation of the town layout, and characters who are authorities on the area’s geography and population even describe the statistics of the population and the geological make-up. It paints a tangible picture of the place, and the result is that the town itself is the most fleshed out character on the stage. The people go about their daily business at various points in time and space and it really feels as if the audience is just observing the real lives of actual people. This is Our Town’s greatest strength, and also its greatest shortcoming.
The show is virtually devoid of conflict. Developments in character relationships or weighty consequences feel minor due to the fluid timeline. The play’s third act also shifts focus from the town as an entity to its occupants and their place in the universe, a development which truthfully contains several fascinating concepts that are not explored in any satisfying depth. This is made all the more frustrating by the fact that every member of the cast is clearly very talented.
Individual scenes have depth conveyed through meaningful relationships and contain multiple threads that could lead to interesting stories but that unfortunately do not. If this same cast and crew were given different material then the result would be something truly special.
The Bottom Line
Our Town is worth seeing for the talent behind the production of it, and if this same cast and crew were given a different script then the result would be spectacular.