BWW Reviews: Beautiful Moments of Theatre on Display at WaterTower's OUR TOWN
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by Joseph Melnicoff
Thornton Wilder's Our Town contains majestic prose of the highest order. WaterTower Theatre has presented this work with highly creative staging and some fine, unmannered performances. All of this leads to some beautiful moments of theatre; to be treasured much in the same way one would treasure a family heirloom.
Our Town first opened on Broadway in 1938, where it enjoyed a seven month run and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. A well received film version followed two years later. The play has since been revived four times on Broadway, and adapted as a musical for television (this production contained the hit song "Love and Marriage.") There is a stage musical version, Grover's Corners, and an opera based on the play which premiered in 2006. Our Town is about the lives of the citizens of a small New England town in the first two decades of the twentieth century with emphasis given to the relationship of high school sweethearts and eventual married couple George and Emily.
Maxey Whitehead was simply resplendent as Emily. Throughout the evening, Miss Whitehead was as genuine and radiant as a perfect sunrise. I truly admired the way she used her voice and facial expressions to present a realistic teenage girl without resorting to cheap and cloying mannerisms. Miss Whitehead wisely waited to unleash her full emotional power until the third act, when she delivered the play's climatic speech with a splendid charged flair.
Stan Graner also turned in a fine, unmannered performance as Mr. Webb, Emily's father. One of the most charming and credible moments in this production is when he gives advice on marriage to his future son-in-law, George. Mr. Graner delivered Mr. Wilder's dialogue with an easy smile and twinkle in his eye. His entire stance was totally authentic, which is the precise definition of true acting.
Other cast members turned in excellent work as well. Nancy Sherrard caught both the comic and dramatic aspects of neighbor Mrs. Soames quite well; and Ted Wold had some nice moments as church organist Simon Stimson.
Terry Martin has directed Our Town in a truly inspirEd Manner. I thoroughly enjoyed how the actors integrated the play with the audience. Methods like this do not always work; but in this instance, it brought the audience much closer with the characters and destroyed the "fourth wall" between the performers and spectators. In a similar vein, Mr. Martin also cleverly and easily brought the audience into the play during the question and answer sequence in the first act.
I did find the pacing of Mr. Martin's staging to be a little lacking. I thought the first act seemed to be somewhat unfocused and hesitant. However, as the evening progressed, the work displayed more power and strength. By the time the third act started, the audience was so immersed in the proceedings that they immediately became silent the very moment the funeral scene began to be set up.
Technically, this production was among the best I have ever witnessed. Clare Floyd DeVries' multi-level set was a remarkable design that was a perfect playing area for the production. Some of the touches were most ingenious-who else but Miss DeVries would design a stage set that is partially blackboard, so the actors can write directly on the set to identify the scene? The turn of the century functioning kitchen that was on display in the third act is the most incredible stage effect to grace Dallas theatre in a long while. Susan A. White's lighting and Curtis Craig's sound design were definite assets to the production as well.
The WaterTower production of Our Town takes a magnificent play and adds excellent performances, resourceful staging and incredible production values. I urge you to attend this production and create some beautiful moments for yourself. Our Town continues through October 24; for more information, please visit http://www.watertowertheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Mark Oristano