“Our Town,” by Thornton Wilder, opened in 1938 in New Jersey, went on to enjoy Broadway success, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Heartwood Theater opens with their version of this long-running classic on April 29 through May 1 and May 5-7.
Heartwood’s approach to this incredible script is to bring its relevance straight into our time, staging it in a contemporary fashion. Director Griff Braley notes, “Rather than recreating Wilder’s play in its period, we’ll strive to illuminate the central tenets by staging the play in modern dress. Our goal is to re-experience the tremendous moment in American theater, which occurred with the opening of Wilder’s play in 1938.”
This story of small town America, narrated by the stage manager, who directly addresses the audience, brings in guest lecturers and even fills in to play some of the roles, focuses on the simplest, ordinary moments of each extraordinary life.
Stripped of artifice, “Our Town” quietly, deftly argues for: a community of core values, in the face of a rapidly evolving world; the best of our humanity over the worst; and the faith to live in the mystery, without answers to some of our deepest questions.
The large cast merges a trio of strong, young professional actors playing the three major roles:
Stephen Shore, of New York City, returns for his third Heartwood production, taking on the weighty role of Stage Manager. Previous Heartwood roles include Jim in the second, musical version of “The Legend of Jim Cullen” and Le Bret, Cyrano’s sidekick, in “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
Grace Experience, also from NYC, and returns to Heartwood’s “Our Town” as Emily Webb. You may remember her as the captivating “Blackbird,” in “The Legend of Jim Cullen.”
Leaving the warm temperatures of Florida to round out the visiting actor trio is Vincent Hannam, playing opposite Miss Experience, in the role of George Gibbs.
Shore, Experience and Hannam perform with a talented cross section of local players and age appropriately cast students.
Audiences accustomed to the magical black box feel of the Poe Theater, will find a keen simplicity, as this story is told with no set (but not without the use of carefully crafted, narrative lighting). Both script and presentation focus on the essence and beauty of our daily lives.