Our Town

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town is a beautiful evocation of small town Americana in the first half of the century as well as a rumination on life, death and everything in between. It urges us to celebrate the beauty of every living moment but acknowledges that in the end we probably won’t. The poignancy and subtlety of the play cannot fail to move.

For all the show’s faults I found myself hopelessly blubbing by the final act.

This production from Samford University Theatre does a respectable job of reviving it. While the mixture of period detail with theatrical artifice remains fresh, the actors admirably breathe life into their characters. Their performances are well observed, especially when playing the differences between generations. In particular Daniel Armburst and Addison Debter are to be congratulated as Dr Gibbs and his son George. Their heart-warming relationship is exquisitely rendered with wit and subtlety. At times, however, some of the acting veers pretty close to ropey. Some lack detail, others preparation, but ultimately it is a strong effort put in by the young cast.

Far more problematic are the sound effects. They blast like fog horns at the slightest of pretences. We can apparently deal with a mimed horse, but not unless we hear comically prolonged and poorly recorded whinnying. Similarly we need a loud clinkity-clink noise to come over the sound system every time someone holds a milk bottle. At the beginning this is simply annoying but gradually it comes to completely annihilate moments of dramatic tension. If ever more was less, this is it.

There is a similar problem with the miming itself. While it is done well with smaller details such as cutting beans or playing the organ, bigger things look a bit odd. Some of the actors look like they’ve never opened a door in their lives. The universality of the problem leads one to assume that this problem must be laid squarely at the feet of the director.

For all the show’s faults I found myself hopelessly blubbing by the final act. The tear ducts burst their banks but one leaves feeling fresher, somehow enlightened and wishing to see the world in closer detail. This is a fine achievement.

Reviews by Rory Mackenzie

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Our Town, written by Thornton Wilder, is described as one of the greatest plays ever written. The story follows the small town of Grover's Corners through three acts: Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity. Narrated by a stage manager and performed with minimal props and sets, audiences follow the Webb and Gibbs families as their children fall in love, marry, and eventually - in one of the most famous scenes in theatre - die. It is at times beautiful, remarkable and essentially human.