Welcome to Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire circa 1901. It’s not a fancy place, most of the 3,149 town’s people will agree. It’s about as dull and ordinary as it gets with no advanced culture to speak of. Nothing much changes in this dwelling of concentrated wholesomeness and rural pleasantry. As sure as the sun rises and sets, all things will remain perpetually mundane.
And as uneventful as that may sound, Our Town, a lyrical drama, is perhaps the best place in the world to visit and the Shaw Festival is so certain of this that they’ve to dazzle audiences that can’t resist the indulgence of small town simplicity.
This is darling staging by Jackie Maxwell whose brushstrokes of perfection stirs feelings of deep humanity and biting mortality in what can best be described as concentrated wholesomeness.. Her genius for blocking has stage entrances and exits mapped out with grandeur.
It starts with actor Benedict Campbell—in a narration presence—inviting playgoers step into the crisp era of early 20th century America—a time that most Americans desperately wish they could return to. Visceral performances by a cast of 20 make this the production as a whole the next best thing to a religious experience.
Playwright Thornton Wilder’s lambent portrait of communal existence, unwelcome gossip, the bashful beating of young hearts, wedding anxiety, and the inevitability of death make you question your very actuality.
“Do any human beings ever realize life as they live it?” questions a panic-stricken Emily (Kate Bestworth) in one of the final scenes of the play. It’s the kind of query that makes your eyes bulge at the sheer tension of the moment.
If the ebb and flow of theatre relies on variant emotional strings to be pulled in a single experience, Our Town is long over-due in festival country.
Review by Steven Berketo
OUR TOWN by Thornton Wilder April 9 – October 15, 2016 ROYAL GEORGE THEATRE, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario TICKETS $25.00 – $117.00 www.shawfest.com 1-800-511-7429 CAST Benedict Campbell, Patrick Galligan, Catherine McGregor, Patrick McManus, Jenny L. Wright, Charlie Gallant, Kate Besworth, Tess Benger, Sharry Flett, Jeff Irving, Peter Millard, David Schurmann DIRECTOR Molly Smith SET Ken MacDonald COSTUMES William Schmuck LIGHTING Kimberly Purtell ORIGINAL MUSIC James Smith