Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Port City Playhouse Our Town

By • Nov 11th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Our Town by Thornton Wilder
Port City Playhouse
Lee Center for the Performing Arts, Alexandria, VA
Through November 15th
$16/$14 Seniors/Juniors
2:00 with one intermission and one pause
Reviewed November 10th, 2009

Our Town is a play in three acts by Thorton Wilder. Observe a slice of life in the sleepy town of Grover’s Corners around the turn of the 20th century and discover the circle of life.

Our Town is not an action packed show, but the pace kept moving and the characters were real and allowed you to imagine what life in a small town is like. All the characters knew each other and there was a real feeling of companionship shared between everyone.

The lead character was the Stage Manager, played smoothly by Dan DeVany. As the narrator, DeVany had the task of bringing all the dialogue together, which he did with an understated strength and presence. You knew he was there, but quickly forgot about him when the other performers appeared on stage.

The young lovers were George and Emily played by Scott Carter and Corrine Brush. Carter and Brush both seemed at ease with each other on stage. Carter came across as feisty and eager to embrace life. Brush was definitely the more level headed of the pair, but her mannerisms showed that she loved George. There was some powerful eye contact made throughout the production between the two performers, which made you feel that the dialogue happening on stage was happening to the audience.

George’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs, were played by Tricia O’Neill-Politte and Chris Brewster. Brewster and O’Neill-Politte were a good match. Again they were comfortable on stage and both had an air of solid principles which they tried to pass on to their children. Emily’s parents were played by Don Neal and Sue Bevine. Neal as a newspaper man was full of life. Sue played her role with a bit more reserve and was understated.

The staging for this show was well thought out. There was plenty of room on the stage and all the actors were spread out, but not too far. The opening act consisted of two tables with two trellises, but all the rest was imagined. It was effective as all the actors made the props (or lack thereof) believable, despite a few instances of items changing their properties, such as size or location. Set Dressing/Properties was provided by Don Neal, Rosemary Hartman, and the cast. The set was simple, but believable and kept the small town feeling alive. Set was designed by Donald Neal and Rosemary Hartman.

There was one scene change in Act II that occured during a monologue from the Stage Manager. And unfortunately, he was drowned out by the cast moving chairs into place. If the cast could make that scene change more quietly, both their walking and the chairs being moved, the scene would be greatly improved.

This was a well run show with believable characters and strong blocking that made the town seem to come alive. Port City’s production will make you think about the meaning of the smallest things in your life that you may be taking for granted.

Notes from the Director

Our Town has long been a favorite of mine. I have appeared on stage as Mrs. Gibbs twice (once actually in New Hampshire) and I am truly delighted to have the opportunity to take the helm of this production. Having lived in New Hampshire for 10 years while my children were growing up, I feel a real affinity for this literary work of genius. I lived in a small town where we never locked our doors and most everybody knew each other, and you could walk or bike almost anywhere you needed to go. Nice town, you know what I mean?

Our Town was first produced at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ to rave reviews. It subsequently opened on Broadway to mixed reviews. Business picked up after the play won the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. The play ahs enjoyed many revivals since, both in the U.S. and abroad. It is probably one of the most produced plays in the world.

During the course of rehearsal the cast and I have dug deep to fully realize the intention of the play as Thornton Wilder meant it to be. We think he is telling us to value the everyday things in life, as we are living them. Seemingly mundane activities such as the cooking (and eating) of the family breakfast, the sweet smell of the flowers in our garden, the soothing warbling, of the songbirds, or even singing in the church choir. Isn’t it sad that often it’s not until we are faced with our own mortality that we take a long hard look at what is really important in life. You will notice there is little or no scenery in this production. That is the way Wilder wrote the play and intended it to be performed. He says “I tried to restore significance to the small details of daily life by removing scenery. The spectator through lending his imagination to the action restages it inside his own head.”

Wilder spent some time in Rome living among archeologists, and found himself looking at things around him as an archeologist would look at them a thousand years in the future. Says Widler: “What is the relation between the countless “unimportant” details of our daily life, on the one hand, and the great perspectives of time, social history, and current religious ideas, on the other. What is trivial and what is significant about any person’s making a breakfast, engaging in a domestic quarrel, in a “love scene” or in dying?”

The play begins with a birth at dawn and ends with a death at the end of evening. As you leave the theatre please don’t think of Our Town as just a little play about a few years in the lives of two families. Rather, acknowledge and accept the premise of that “circle of life” with all experience: Birth, Life, Love, Death – no exceptions!

“The play is an attempt to find value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life.” – Thornton Wilder

Think about it. Enjoy the show. — Rosemary Hartman

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Port City Playhouse.

The Cast

  • Stage Manager: Dan DeVany
  • Dr. Gibbs: Chris Brewster
  • Joe Crowell: John Camarella
  • Howie Newsome: Bob Scott
  • Mrs. Gibbs: Tricia O’Neill-Politte
  • Mrs. Webb: Sue Bevine
  • George Gibbs: Scott Carter
  • Rebecca Gibbs: Eliza Malakoff
  • Wally Webb: Josh Turner
  • Emily Webb: Corrine Brush
  • Professor Willard: Ron Vardiman
  • Mr. Webb: Donald Neal
  • 1st Woman in Auditorium: Brodie Evans
  • Man in Auditorium: David Citron
  • Artistic Woman in Auditorium: Krista Barnette
  • Simon Stimson: Calvert Whitehurst
  • Mrs. Soames: Florence Ferraro
  • Constable Warren: Michael Switalski
  • Sid Crowell: Daniel Durgavich
  • Baseball Player: Arthur Chu
  • Baseball Player: John Camarella
  • Baseball Player: Daniel Durgavich
  • Joe Stoddard: Robert Kraus
  • 1st Dead Woman: Peggie Arvidson
  • 1st Dead Man: Ron Vardiman
  • 2nd Dead Woman: Brodie Evans
  • 2nd Dead Man: Jon Marget

The Crew

  • Director: Rosemary Hartman
  • Producer: Donald Neal
  • Assistant Producer/Stage Manager: Edward Breitner
  • Set Design: Donald Neal and Rosemary Hartman
  • Set Construction: Donald Neal, assisted by Calvert Whitehurst, Brodie Evans, Dan DeVany, Scott Carter, Robert Kraus, Tricia Politte, Bob Scott, and Michael Switalski
  • Set Painting: Eleni Aldridge and Bette Williams
  • Set Dressing/Properties: Donald Neal, Amanda Helms and the Cast
  • Lighting Design: Chris Hardy, assisted by Robert Kraus
  • Sound Design: Alan K. Wray
  • Costume design and Construction: Farrell Ann Hartigan
  • Hair/Makeup: Bette Williams
  • Pantomime Adviser: Brodie Evans
  • Choir Adviser: Adriana Hardy

Disclaimer: Port City Playhouse provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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