Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Community theater at its best

The Yellow Springs Centre Stage production of "Our Town"
Last two shows, this Friday and Saturday night

Thornton Wilder threw out the rule book some 75 years ago when he wrote "Our Town." It was clearly no accident and a daringly progressive move on his part, especially for the time. The play could have bombed, but instead, it grew legs, second only to the works of Shakespeare in the number times it has been produced. With its minimalist set, characters breaking the fourth wall, and lack of the traditional structure of conflict and resolution, Wilder handed generations of directors-to-come an almost blank canvas on which to paint their vision of his play about life and death in small town America at the turn of the 20th Century.

Once again, a Kay Reimers production has transformed the fellowship hall at the First Presbyterian Church into a world far away from its  cinder block walls, tiny stage and morbid acoustics. With the production of "The Cherry Orchard" last year, virtually every inch of the room was used for theater, with the liberal use of sound baffles to improve the acoustics. This time around, Director Lorrie Sparrow went with theater-in-the-round, placing the theater-goers right on top of the actors. The setting is so intimate the audience, at times, is literally in the play. It works.

Sparrow, former Executive Director of Blue Jacket with a long professional career in theater both as a director and actress, did an excellent job of bringing together a cast with experience varying from novice to experienced amateur to professional to pull this off. When the show was over, I found myself asking, "What could they have done to make this production better?" The answer is, "Not a heck of a lot." The heart-wrenching final act had tears welling in my eyes.

Bravo to the cast: Ali Thomas, Rob Campbell, Miriam Eckenrode, Colton Pitstick, Juno Shemano, Thor Sage, Lara Bently, Jeanna Breza, Duard Headly II, Lucas Sansom, Sarah Wildman, Tom Siebold, Howard Shook, and Ellen Ballerene. If these names are familiar to you, it might be because you have seen them in other local productions over the years. Or, it might just be that they are your friends and neighbors. That's community theater. And this production of "Our Town" is community theater at its best.


Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it Virgil,you and Walter Roades are the official muse of Centre Stage!

Anonymous said...

And I gotta say, I think the music was incredible, too. It was there without hesitation and often brought just enough reality to this effectively spartan production to keep the audience further engaged with the sounds of life in a small town. Musicians: yes, Our Town does have culture!! Thanks so much for your outstanding contribution as well!

Virgil Hervey said...

Yes, thanks for remembering the musicians. The music was wonderful, both as incidental music and when it accompanied the church choir.