Our Town is the most produced play in America, meaning that every production faces the challenge that the audience members are potentially comparing it with previous exposures to the piece. The action in the play is not extraordinary – it’s a small town love story, focusing on two families and the community that surrounds them as their children mature into parents themselves. Though simple, when done well, this play’s impact extends beyond the time that the audience spends in the theater, triggering long-lasting introspection about how we want to spend the limited time we have while living on this earth.
HE SAID: This was the show that made me want to be involved in theatre, so I went in with high expectations. Boy, did Colorado Shakes deliver! This show was stunning in its simplicity. The set was very plain, mostly made of wood panels like a log cabin. As usual, the actors pantomimed all of the props for the show, with occasional sound effects being supplied by in a foley style (with actors on the edge of the stage using items to provide appropriate sounds for the action). The lack of spectacle allows the focus to be on the story – which is excellently delivered by the actors. The audience is lead through the play by “The Stage Manager”, spectacularly played by Beethovan Oden, who found a wonderful balance between objective external narrator and personal member of the town.
SHE SAID: This is my first time seeing this play, and I was utterly touched by this production. I thought that the restrained number of set and costume details made it theatrical enough to hold my interest, but never distracted from the commendable acting. Because I was new to this play, I only regarded the Stage Manager as a compassionate narrator, and might have missed some of the duality of the role. For me, Philip Sneed as Mr. Webb and Karen Slack as Mrs. Webb stood out just a bit from the rest of the cast as exceptionally connected and authentic. I also really enjoyed the simple sincerity of Benjamin Bonenfant performing as George Gibbs, and although it took me a while to really warm to the character, Jamie Ann Romero proved her worth during Emily Webb’s stunning emotional realization in Act III.
HE SAID: Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs also had their wonderful moments – Mr. Gibbs in his father/son bonding moment discussing the wood chopping and Mrs. Gibbs in her conversation with George before the wedding. This show would be incomplete though if it weren’t for the entire ensemble as well. Each person in this cast developed really human characters and brought all the stories to life.
SHE SAID: I agree that that it absolutely takes a village to mount a production like Our Town, and the ensemble was very invested. Furthermore, I thought that the direction (by Victoria Evans Erville) was strongly conceived but delicately implemented. She certainly had unique and modern ideas about what change meant in Grover’s Corners, but her choices never forced themselves upon the audience. Instead, they fit into the production warmly and comfortably, waiting patiently to be discovered by an attentive audience.
HE SAID: I think one of the best changes was the multi-cultural casting throughout the show. When the play was first produced and during the time in which the play is set, the town would have been very homogeneous. But in today’s world, our towns are growing more diverse everyday. By bringing this notion into the casting and direction of the play, Erville really demonstrated the relevance of this play and proved how timeless and universal this story will always be.
SHE SAID: I completely agree! I think the most touching message of the play is that you can never recognize the most important parts of life while you’re right in the middle of it. As an audience member, however, you are able to achieve the distanced perspective that the living characters never do, and you can appreciate how precious and rare all of the growth that can occur in one lifetime is. This production highlighted what an exciting era of change we are in now (and perhaps that society is always in) and made me reflect on how lucky I am to be witnessing first-hand the constantly evolving world.
THEY SAY: This play proves that you don’t need flash and spectacle or smoke and mirrors to make a great show. All you need is a wonderful story that speaks to the hearts of the audience, and a company to handle it with professional compassion. Colorado Shakespeare Festival set out to present American Classics this season, and they did this classic more than justice. This production, performed in the gorgeous outdoor venue at CSF, absolutely made our weekend! You’ll regret it if you let the chance to enjoy this production pass you by.
Our Town plays July 24, 25 and August 3 and 4 at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. For more information or to purchase tickets, click the banner below: