Review: ‘Our Town’ at Rockville Little Theatre

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“The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises,” so it says in the Bible’s Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter One, Verse 5. People, live, people die, life goes on. That theme was prominent in playwright Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which is playing at the Rockville Little Theatre at the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre.

On the surface, Our Town is a series of domestic scenes about the often mundane living of everyday life in Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire. But in the hands of Director Laurie T. Freed and a superb cast, Our Town is a jewel of superior drama that evokes serious thought about what it means to relate to ourselves and each other.

Zoe Bulitt (Emily Webb) and Michael Patton (George Gibbs). Photo courtesy of Rockville Little Theatre.
Zoe Bulitt (Emily Webb) and Michael Patton (George Gibbs). Photo by Harvey Levine.

ACT I: Daily Life, started the play’s action off in the year 1901, May 7th. The Stage Manager, and narrator, (the excellent Ken Kemp) explained to the audience the particulars of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, even bringing on a Professor Willard (Phil Kibak) to speak exhaustively about every morsel of the town’s history.

A progression of characters went about their daily routines: Howie Newsome (Michael Abendshein) delivered milk, and Dr. Frank F. Gibbs (Stan Rosen) and his wife Julia (the wonderful Tracy Husted) and Charles Webb, Editor of the Grover’s Corner Sentinel (Tristan Poje) and his wife Myrtle (Amanda Wesley), send their kids, George Gibbs (the powerful Kirk Patton Jr.) and Emily Webb (Zoe Bulitt), off to school.

Nothing spectacular was revealed during this act, or any of the others. Characteristics of the characters were laid bare, not plot twists; for instance it was revealed that Dr. Gibbs loved to visit Civil War battlefields on vacations, but his wife wanted to “see a place where they don’t speak English.”

Simon Stimson (the unforgettable Michael Angeloni) was shown to be the town drunk, screaming at the church choir while trying to direct them. Constable Bill Warren (Stephen Swift) walked his beat. Newspaper delivery boy Joe Crowell (Sydney Lauricella-Reed) will grow up to attend Mass Tech, and then die in the First World War, as told by the Stage Manager. Frank told his son George to chop wood so his mother wouldn’t have to. George loves Emily. Such is life.

ACT II: Love and Marriage, took place in 1904, and centered around the love between George and Emily, now 17. As they slurped down ice cream sodas, George and Emily (newly elected Junior Class President and Secretary respectively) sparred with each other about their personality differences, but as the scene progressed, it was apparent these two young people couldn’t  live without each other. George later had an awkward meeting with his future in-laws, which included funny, but telling advice from Mr. Webb about how a husband should treat his wife. Predictably, the result of it all was a wedding, but this play thrived on explorations of relationships, not plot. Mrs. Louella Soames (the adorable Sandra Cox True), as the wedding ended, summed up ACT II: “I just love for young people to be happy.”

ACT III: Death and Dying, which dramatized a funeral of one of the major characters and took place nine years later, was somber and referenced the brevity of life. It reminded me of the Bible verse “Teach us to remember our days, so that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” Psalms 90:12. Seated, black-clad, departed townspeople spoke to each other whilst figuratively in their graves. The character who was the subject of the funeral reminisced about life in Grover’s Corners in years past. But one of the other departed characters would have none of that: “Our purpose here is to forget all that.”

Ken Kemp (The Stage Manager). Photo courtesy of Rockville Little Theatre.
Ken Kemp (The Stage Manager). Photo by Harvey Levine.

And so life went; as the Stage Manager reminded the audience: “Every 16 hours, people lay down to sleep.” The Sun comes up, the Sun goes down. As the lyrics of a famous song from a musical said: “Sunrise, Sunset!”

Lighting Designer Peter Caress and Tammi T. Gardner, Lighting Execution, did an outstanding job evoking a church, various times of day, and the moon using the enormous, upstage screen. Costume Designer Bethany Brown’s 1904 attire used in the wedding scene was spot on, and Daniel Bentz, Sound Design and Execution, created convincing sound effects to accompany Set Designer Rebecca Meyerson’s spare (by playwright Wilder’s dictate), but effective set.

Rockville Little Theatre’s moving Our Town shows the importance and the meaning of relationships. Powerful performances by the cast make it a meaningful show to catch with all your loved ones.

Running Time: Two hours, with two 15-minute intermissions.

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Our Town plays through May 8, 2016 at Rockville Little Theatre performing at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at the Rockville Civic Center – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.

LINKS:
Meet the Cast of Rockville Little Theatre’s ‘Our Town’: Part 1: Zoe Bulitt.

Meet the Cast of Rockville Little Theatre’s ‘Our Town’: Part 2: Allison Howlett.

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