ASHTABULA — The G.B. Community Theatre’s production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” delivers on all levels.
It is entertaining, enlightening and emotionally moving. There is humor and there is pathos. Most of all, the casting and performances are perfect. As an example of the audience’s appreciation, Saturday night’s performance at the Ashtabula Arts Center brought down a nearly full house with a standing ovation.
Since its first showing in 1938 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., “Our Town” has become a perennial repertory favorite. The play won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938. It was been revived and produced in countless cities and small towns over the years, and is often referred to as the quintessential American drama.
Today, those who attempt a production of “Our Town” are met with some formidable obstacles. The play is set in a typical small town, Grover’s Corners, N.H., in the period of 1902 to 1913. In the year of its original production, this era was not far from public memory. In 2013, few people remember horse-drawn milk carts and streets without cars. These historical elements must serve the universal story in order for the audience to suspend disbelief and follow along.
The G.B. Community Theatre production presents them more than adequately as color, allowing the audience to merge with the story without the need for explanations that distract. It is a slice of life from a time gone by, but a modern audience can understand what’s going on. The result is a strong identification with the characters and the situations they find themselves in.
Probably the character most responsible for helping this process is called the ‘stage manager.’ In this case he is not a real stage manager, but rather a narrator or guide who interjects asides and information about “Our Town” and its denizens. Tom Milligan does a brilliant job of playing this part. His New Hampshire accent is impeccable and his stage presence is powerful.