Our Town, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Potomac, Maryland, November 2, 2019
Oakton High School
The whistling of a train bustling over the tracks impedes the blissful silence of a town at rest. The cock crows, and it is May 17, 1901. The town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, prepares for a typical day. But unlike the citizens' seemingly predictable lives, nothing is typical about this showing of Our Town. St. Andrew's production of the Thornton Wilder classic demonstrated the complexity of small-town life with charismatic characters and consistent energy that left the audience on the edge of their seats through even the most mundane of daily events.
Wilder's fourth-wall breaking portrait of American life has been a staple in theaters all over the world since its debut in 1938. The story follows young couple George Gibbs and Emily Webb as their love progresses, bringing the audience through the key moments of their lives together. With the Stage Manager acting as the play's narrator, the intended effect of a "play within a play" is apparent upon first glimpse. With its absence of props, productions all over the world have been forced to rely on emotion and line delivery to convey the heartbreaking story. St. Andrew's delivered upon Wilder's intended effect with skilled performances, allowing the audience to see themselves in the lives of the townspeople.
A mostly bare set with lighting instruments strategically placed on the stage itself contributed to the concept of a play within a play, effectively expressing the non-traditional concept of the show. Even without any props, none of the story was lost among the audience, with various dramatic effects to showcase the actions of the characters at various points throughout the show. Notably, actors snapping their fingers to portray the breaking of peas and skillfully pantomiming daily actions. Parker Dymond's portrayal of the stage manager was another facet in the audience's understanding of the plot, providing necessary context and a narrative of life in Grover's Corners. Dymond maintained energy and the audience's attention through lengthy monologues of seemingly mundane actions, demonstrating the culture of the small town.
George Gibbs (David Stevenson) and Emily Webb (Olivia Kindfuller) touched the hearts of the audience, their chemistry evolving into their love. They painted an all-too-real picture of awkward teenage relationships with their nervous flirtations and fear of rejection. The emotional intensity of the pair grew throughout the play, with George's growing vulnerability and love for Emily ultimately culminating in Stevenson's poignant display of anguish as George visits the grave of his wife.
The symmetry between the Gibbs and Webb families allowed for a deeper understanding of life in Grover's Corners, providing a look into the average American household at that time. Mrs. Gibbs (Caroline Milne) exemplified a stern, yet caring, mother, her at-times worrisome personality demonstrating a reality for most parents. The comedic timing of Rebbeca Gibbs (Charlotte Lobring) and Mr. Webb (Oliver Bush) brought some relief to the heavy topics in the play, with Rebecca and George's playful brother-sister relationship being brought to life by Lobring and Stevenson.
Aided by the dramatic effects and energetic storytelling, St. Andrew's effectively accomplished Thornton Wilder's vision of an intimate exhibit of small-town life. The passionate displays of emotion captivated the audience, telling a story of love, hate, bliss, and despair that transcends time period.