Live: “Our Town” @ Williamstown Theatre Festival
Thornton Wilder’s classic “Our Town” is about the poetry and grace of day-to-day living in small town America.
It’s about living in the moment.
And it is, quite simply, the quintessential 20th century American play.
“Our Town” somehow seems like a fitting farewell for outgoing Williamstown Theatre Festival artistic director Nicholas Martin. Wilder’s play is set in the fictional Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, but Williamstown, Massachusetts is not all that different. This is a deceptively casual, unhurried production, and director Martin plays it straight – no fancy updates or dramatic re-interpretations forced onto Wilder’s script.
This being summer theater in the Berkshires there are plenty of faces onstage that you’ll be familiar with, even if you may not be able to conjure up the names to go with the faces.
Tony award nominee Jessica Hecht – but still best known for her role as Susan (the lesbian, first ex-wife of Ross) on “Friends” – plays Mrs. Webb. Emmy award nominee Dylan Baker (“The Good Wife”) brings wit and excellent timing to the role of her husband, the town’s newspaper editor. Tony award winner John Rubinstein – who also played the title role in the 1971 cult psychedelic western “Zachariah” – portrays their next-door neighbor, Doc Gibbs.
And veteran stage and film actor Campbell Scott handles the chores of the Stage Manager with the deft balance of surety and nonchalance that comes from the advantage of 20/20 hindsight.
It’s a fine and sturdy cast with a special mention of Will Rogers, who perfectly nails the pivotal role of George Gibbs, the gangly, awkward kid who falls in love and becomes a man.
Echoing the small-town resonance of Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning script, Martin has rounded out the cast with a number of local, honest-to-goodness Williamstown townspeople – including Williams College political science professor Sam Crane as Professor Willard, the town historian.
What truly elevates the production to a level of poetry, however, is David Korins’ eloquent single-set stage design – an exquisite tangle of tables and ladders and chairs and chairs and chairs that reaches heavenward towards the stars. It’s at once simple and complex, providing an appropriately abstract fantasia as a backdrop for a play rooted in the seemingly commonplace events of quiet, ordinary lives.
Michael Eck’s review in The Times Union