A beautiful production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is now playing at Fremont Centre Theatre, a play that, as it turns out, is both classic and timely. I am familiar with this play having seen several productions and truth be told I think it’s a perfect play, one of my all time favorites. Never has its themes of living in the moment and savoring life’s simple gifts resonated more profoundly than seeing it in the present moment we are living.
A mysterious stage manager welcomes us to Grovers Corners, a small town, not unlike South Pasadena, at the turn of the century. It is a fictional town somewhere in New Hampshire, but the depiction of small town life could be anywhere really, not only in the States but around the world. Our stage manager, played with a steady, comforting calm by George Triplett, acts not only as our narrator but also tour guide and plays a few characters as well. We meet two families whose children grow up next door to one another. The Gibbs’ son George and the Webb family’s daughter Emily fall in love and form the heart of the story. We, along with the characters we meet along the way, will follow their courtship as young friends to sweethearts through marriage and death. George is all youthful energy and nerves, as played by Connor Chaney, but it is in his most vulnerable moments, revealing his true feelings to Emily over strawberry ice cream sodas, or crying graveside, where he really shines. As Emily, Rachel Banks glows with vulnerability as a sweetly terrified bride. Their love seems to hold the hopes and dreams of the whole town.
Director Jack Bennett has drawn terrific performances from this fine cast. His direction is inspired, adding some special touches that seem as though they’ve always belonged in this play. Tamarah Ashton is back, imbuing Mrs. Soames with her special brand of pitch perfect neighborhood gossip. She is just delicious fun! Beautifully depicting George’s mother, Lauren Peterson is a delightful Mrs. Gibbs playing opposite a sensitive and thoughtful R. Emmett Lee as Dr. Gibbs. A feisty Annie Sawran plays little sister Rebecca Gibbs while a peppery Georgan George and the elegant Matthew Dorio give Emily’s parents a comforting steadiness. Chris Girt has a sadness behind his eyes as choirmaster Simon Stimson and no one puts you more realistically in the middle of Grovers Corners than Timothe Gravelle as trusty milkman Howie Newsom. The cast is strongly rounded out with Isabel Edwards, Gray Edwards, Dune Galor-McPherson, Thomas Long, Jon Cates, Erin Durcan and Gyl Roland.
By the time we’ve joined these characters on significant days over the course of some 12 years, we’ve come to know them, love them, grieve with them and marvel at “something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being”. The story endures, extraordinary in its ordinary, magnificent beauty.
OUR TOWN is produced by Gloria Bennett for Young Stars Theatre and runs through October 24, both in-person and livestreamed at Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena. Tickets and information at www.YoungStarsTheatre.org