Eric Warner Staff Writer
On Nov. 19 – 24, Eastern’s Performing Arts Department and Drama Society presented the play “Our Town.” Created by Thornton Wilder and directed by Tim Golebiewski, “Our Town” is a production that takes place during the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries focusing on the lives of the townsfolk in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Inspired by the literature that represents old civilizations such as the trade documents of Babylon or the stories of Homer from Ancient Greece, Wilder wrote this play as a relic to depict how people lived their lives in the early twentieth century so that future societies will know what values people upheld in this time period.
The play centers around a stage manager that narrates the lives of the townsfolk, specifically the members of the neighboring Gibbs and Webb families, as well as the events they partake in. This character is played so charismatically by Austin Washington. The audience gets to learn about the history of the town and how it grows through the actions of this narrator. Viewers can even somewhat interact with the cast of the production with some cast members posing as audience members in the theatre, asking the townsfolk questions about the town to illustrate how different the lifestyle of Grover’s Corners is compared to the present day.
In terms of set design, “Our Town” is a fairly unique play compared to most. There are only a few physical set pieces on stage with the majority of which being chairs, plus a couple of benches and two tables. Everything else the cast interacts with from entire buildings to a cow being led to fill morning milk bottles, is completely imaginary with only the manager and the townsfolks descriptions aiding in creating these structures in the audiences’ minds. Despite this possible difficulty, the cast is still able to expertly portray Grover’s Corners as a plausible location that is cherished and mired by its inhabitants. Making the set imaginary also allows the audience to insert their own conceptions of a home town onto their depiction of Grover’s Corner which can make them become attached to the setting more quickly as compared to a complexly new and alien local.
The lighting for “Our Town” is used expertly well in this production with most of the set being lit by old hanging light bulbs that aid in setting the mood for most scenes but also in telling the audience that this story takes place a long time ago. Sound effects are also used expertly well for this production with sounds of hooves moving, roosters crowing, and bells ringing helping in making the transparent items and structures a reality to the viewers. Since “Our Town” is not a musical, there is little to no music used in the production but the cast is still able to make the production an emotional roller coaster without the aid of instruments.
The crux of “Our Town” is the blossoming lives between the Gibbs and Webb families. Throughout the play audiences get to see parents raise their children, specifically George Gibbs and Emily Webb played fantastically by Jake Buckley and Emily Kelly, young adults fall in love, and upstanding adults dealing with tragedy. “Our Town” is a story of life in a rural setting that anyone who’s grown up in such a town can appreciate. It’s a charming achievement in storytelling and set design that can still bring viewers to tears.