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Theater Review: "Our Town" At The Broad Stage

Katie Buenneke |
January 27, 2012 | 1:05 a.m. PST

Theater Editor


 Broad Stage)
Broad Stage)
A spare, peninsular stage of sorts, with just two tables and eight chairs. Such is the inauspicious beginning to "Our Town," now playing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.

It quickly becomes clear, though, that this will, in fact, be an auspicious production of Thornton Wilder's classic play. As Helen Hunt commands the story (both literally and figuratively) as the Stage Manager, the audience begins to enter the world of Grover's Corners, circa 1901-1913.

"Our Town" outlines small-town life at the beginning of the 20th century, an era exploding with change elsewhere. However, this sleepy New Hampshire town doesn't change much—and furthermore, isn't much different from any small town in America today. Mr. Webb (Tim Curtis), the newspaper editor, and his wife (Kati Brazda), have a lovely daughter, Emily (Jennifer Grace), while their neighbors, the Gibbs (Lori Myers and Jeff Still), have a charming son, George (James McMenamin). Emily and George realize their love for each other we witness the beginnings of their life together.

The play, which is directed by David Cromer, is staged interestingly. The costumes, by Alison Siple, are strikingly contemporary, a tone which is echoed by the lighting fixtures (Heather Gilbert) and the modern sensibility brought by the actors to each character. While the play is clearly set in the early 1900s based on historical references in the text, it is not immediately apparent from the disposition of each character. Perhaps it's a reflection on the timelessness of Wilder's characters, or maybe Cromer's direction highlights particularly relevant aspects of the play, but either way, it is successful.

Each of the actors works like a piece of a puzzle to creat a vivid image of the town—each is moderately interesting on his or her own, but the real intrigue lies in seeing how they fit together. Certainly, as in life, each individual brings out some of the best (or if not the best, at least the most interesting) aspects of one another when they are together.

Wilder's play itself, while considered by many to be one of the great theatrical classics, is not as stellar as it's reputation would have you believe. While the simplicity is nice (and brought out well by this production), the play is aggravatingly metatheatrical and almost overly preachy and facile. The cast and creative team fight valiantly to redeem it, and do in fact succeed, but one can't help but wish this talented group had something meatier to sink their teeth into.

Reach Katie here.

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