The Column Online

OUR TOWN

by Thornton Wilder

Theatre Frisco

Director - John S. Davies
Stage Manager - Jon Anthony Adams
Assistant Stage Manager - Shaun J. Walsh
Set Designer - John S. Davies
Light and Sound Designer - Jon Anthony Adams
Costume Designer - Suzi Cranford
Producer - Howard Korn
Associate Producer - Deborah Jaskolka
Associate Producer - Judith Johnson
Associate Producer - Reggie Moore


CAST

Stage Manager - Francis Henry
Dr. Frank F. Gibbs - Howard Korn
Joe Crowell - Adrien Carpenter
Howie Newsome - Blake Owen
Mrs. Myrtle Webb - Kelly Clarkson
Mr. Charles Webb - Jerome Stein
Emily Webb - Erin Elliott
Wally Webb - Alex Alford
George Gibbs - Wheeler Williams
Rebecca Gibbs - Jourdan Stein
Mrs. Julia Gibbs - Alice Montgomery
Professor Willard - Duncan Rogers
Woman 1 in audience - Parisa Leduc
Man in audience - Blake Owen
Woman 2 in audience - Rachel Bauman
Simon Stimson - Bob Zak
Mrs. Soames - Stephanie George
Constable Warren - Jeremy Osborne
Si Crowell - Adrien Carpenter
Baseball player 1 - Blake Owen
Baseball player 2 - Shaun J. Walsh
Baseball player 3 - Grey Clarkson
Sam Craig - Blake Owen
Joe Stoddard - Jeremy Osborne


Reviewed Performance: 5/27/2011

Reviewed by Laurie Lynn Lindemeier, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

While the iconic play Our Town has also been adapted to film and opera, I prefer the original stage version of American playwright Thornton Wilder's play with the nearly naked stage containing only two kitchen table settings and two doorways. Frisco Community Theatre opened this character play last Friday evening in the Black Box Theatre of the Frisco Discovery Center. Their website explained that the troupe featured professional and non-professional actors, however, I could hardly distinguish the difference by the caliber of acting. Every performer on the dimly lit stage convinced me that they were folks from Grover's Corners, New Hampshire in the year 1901, rather than 2011 residents of North Texas.

The drama began at a time shortly before automobiles came on the scene. The stage manager [Francis Henry] spoke directly to the audience in a soothing storyteller tone and introduced us to the average New England town. The play contained three acts: Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity. I must disagree with the Soviet Unions' 1946 proclamation banning the play "on the grounds that the drama is too depressing and could inspire a German suicide wave."

While I did have a good cry or two, the play was optimistically inspiring--challenging the audience to cherish every moment of every day. Emily Webb [Erin Elliott] said it well as she observed the living visiting her grave. "They don't understand, do they?" As an audience member we couldn't help but walk away wanting to make a sincere effort to "understand" while still living.

The Frisco players achieved the ultimate goal in this type of play which is to cause the viewers to reexamine their lives. We watched the mothers, Mrs. Gibbs [Alice Montgomery] and Mrs. Webb [Kelly Clarkson] as they called their children to the breakfast table and, with Emily's help, took a deeper look at an unimportant morning. Perhaps some viewers went home to begin enjoying such seemingly uneventful times of their own lives a bit more. As the father, Mr. Webb [Jerome Stein] lovingly called out, "Where's my girl?" I remembered my father calling, "Where are you Loddy Doddy?" My tears flowed. That was a wonderful moment of a spectacularly written play and well acted drama?when tears of memories pour from a viewer's eyes. I often heard sniffles around me and didn't feel self-conscious as I sat weeping in the front row close enough to see if the actor's fake eyelashes were on straight. My watery eyes made me feel human, as I experienced the joys and sorrows of Grover's Corner.

We watched the choir ladies gossip after rehearsal about the scandalous behavior of their tipsy director, Simon Stimson, [Bob Zak] and knew that church choir gossip has been going on for a long time. Bob Zak played the sullen staggering choir director, although on another stage he performs in a comedy troupe. His sour-on-the-world character was prone to harsh words and zombie like stares and yet the townsfolk forgave him since he had "been through so much." We never found out exactly what Simon had been through but his fellow citizens illustrated small town camaraderie which knows everyone's business but forgives quite a bit because of history. Having grown up in a rural Minnesota town of 363 people, this concept hit several nerves with me.

The universality of Mr. Wilder's play has been hitting nerves with many viewers since its first performance in 1938, the year it also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In Frisco Community Theater's presentation of this award winning play we watched folks go through the steps of American life at the turn of the century. Howie Newsome [Blake Owen], the milkman, limped along delivering the milk and leading his horse and cart; Joe [Adrien Carpenter], the paperboy, tossed the paper onto steps; and women strung beans and chatted but failed to look into each other's eyes and savor the sweet moments.

Erin Elliott, as Emily, didn't miss such a moment as she soulfully stared at the moon and declared, "Isn't the moon awful?" As George Gibbs [Wheeler Williams] tried to understand what Emily found so amazing about that moon, I secretly vowed to dart outside at intermission and get a good look into the sky at the moon to see if I could have an Emily moment. However, the cigarette smoker crowd right outside the door squelched my desire--back to the twentieth century.

Yet, lingering in the lobby at the intermission was not punishment. A stunning photography exhibit, "Old Texas Forts and Farmhouses" by Keith Blandford, lined the walls giving my eyes plenty to feast upon. This gallery exhibit complimented the nostalgic aura of Our Town. Director, John S. Davies, cast the show well and did a fine job guiding the players to create convincing characters with no help from props and elaborate set. We believed they were eating, baking and jumping puddles without ever seeing a morsel of food or a muddy sidewalk. The costumes, accurate to the era, were designed by Suzi Cranford with fine attention to detail which also helped the characters come to life.

No electronic sound effects, but a human voice illuminated scenes with a train whistling, chickens clucking, a horse neighing, and a rooster crowing. These backstage sound effects had us giggling, and added a "Prairie Home Companion" radio broadcast feeling. John Anthony Adams designed sound and lights.

Don't miss your chance to shed tears, have a good laugh, and reflect before this play closes on June 11th. Be sure to take along a pack of tissues for a nice cleansing cry.

OUR TOWN
Frisco Community Theater, Frisco Discovery Center
8004 North Dallas Parkway, Suite 200, Frisco, TX 75034
Runs through June 11th

Fridays and Saturdays @ 8:00pm ; Sunday matinee @2:30pm
For info call 972-370-2266 or www.friscocommunitytheatre.com
rs_show.Close() set rs_show = nothing %>