Review: Interplayers’ ‘Our Town’ harkens to simpler times
Interplayers Theatre’s new imagining of Thornton Wilder’s classic play “Our Town” offers the same slice-of-life portrait of American life and heart that fans of the play appreciate. Artistic Director Reed McColm’s adaptation, approved by Wilder’s estate, features just eight actors who play all 36 roles. This version also invites a little audience participation.
The ensemble is evenly matched and blends well, with each performer carrying his or her weight in the story. The movement between scenes and character transformations were well-crafted by director Michael Weaver.
Patrick Treadway leads the ensemble as the Stage Manager who narrates the story and offers insights into each family’s life. Treadway’s easy manner turns each speech into a comfortable conversation with the audience. “This is the way we were,” he explains. His monologue at the top of Act 3 is particularly poignant. “There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being,” he says.
Mrs. Gibbs (Page Byers) and Mrs. Webb (Maria Caprile) serve as the backbones of their families. Gibbs longs for an adventure. “Once in your life before you die you ought to see a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to,” she tells Webb.
Caprile skillfully portrays the hard-working Webb with pointed wit. She tells her daughter, “You’re pretty enough for normal purposes.”
James Pendleton, as teenager George Gibbs, and Sarah Uptagrafft, as his love interest Emily Webb, have an adorable rapport. Uptagrafft’s goodbye to the audience toward the end of the play is sweet and moving. “Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you,” she muses.
Jennifer Jacobs is funny as George’s sister, Rebecca. Wes Deitrick and Jerry Sciarrio round out the cast, playing everything from a newspaper editor to a college professor.
Part of the charm of traditional productions of “Our Town” is hearing all the voices and seeing all the people who populate it, from the young paper carrier to the old drunken organist. This chorus of small-town America could be sadly missed by some audience members at this production.
Justin Schmidt’s lighting design is excellent, creating atmosphere with a church’s stained-glass windows and even the moon. Costume design by Caprile also was well-done.
The pacing overall is slow, but then it meant to contrast the changes happening in society at the turn of the 20th century, when the play takes place. It is also a reminder to us living in the rapid current to pause and, as Emily suggests, “realize” the world.