Opening night of ‘Our Town’ a mixed bag

Christopher Lloyd, as the Stage Manager, addresses the audience at the graveyard. All photos by Hubert Schriebl.

By David Lampe-Wilson
©2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Thornton Wilder’s 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town begins the new summer season at Weston Playhouse and the production is a mixed bag at best.

In 1938, it was a challenging stage experiment, and it has come down through the years to become an American classic — an honest yet bleak look at people’s inability to appreciate their lives as they live them.

Our Town chronicles the lives of people living in the fictional town of Grovers Corners, N.H. Wilder strips away the artifice of the theater —scenery and props are eliminated; the play is performed with a couple of tables and chairs, and actors mime eating, cooking, reading.

Nighttime in Grover’s Corners.

Wilder’s aim was to cut through the baggage of life and drill down to its essence — it is a sobering celebration of lives lived, relationships forged and opportunities lost.

Weston’s production, we are told in a press release, is “a fresh take on a timeless classic,” which means no period costumes (it is traditional to set the production in 1938) and a failure to create an aura of theatricality on the dreary bare stage.

Here we have a cast in modern dress sitting around folding tables on modern chairs. And while this approach can work to make a connection between the past and the present, this production offers a drab modern setup that is further hobbled by an Act I that is both sluggish and uninteresting.

Emily and George’s wedding day.

On opening night, the play found energy in Act II thanks to Vichet Chum and Julie Benko, who play the young lovers; and while many in the cast occasionally found the right note, the production is hampered by muddy direction. Still, the production mined enough humor to keep our interest.

It should be noted that Christopher Lloyd plays the role of Stage Manager. He is the anchor for the piece, our guide through the history and the hopes of the people of Grover’s Corners. On opening night Lloyd seemed tentative, muted and subdued, and one can only hope that as the run continues he will attain surer footing.

Our Town continues through July 7 at the Weston Playhouse, 12 Park St., Weston. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; matinees at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at 3 p.m. For tickets, click here. And for more information, call 802-824-5288.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeIn the ArtsReviews

About the Author: After 30 years as a theater critic and arts editor for a Connecticut daily newspaper, David Lampe-Wilson transplanted to Vermont with his wife and two cats.

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