A prop-less “Our Town” shines with acting

Ken Kutska, Assistant A&E Editor

The SRJC Theater Arts’ spring production of “Our Town,” is a slow, subtle emotional rollercoaster that leaves audiences laughing and crying at its brilliance.

The play is about the small, close-knit community of Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, set in the early 1900s. Divided into three acts, “Our Town” describes the background of the townspeople and examines how they deal with happiness, love and tragedy.

The play, directed by John Shillington, begins with the stage manager, played by Ron Smith, describing the location of Grover’s Corner to the known audience. He points to many places around him, describing things like the train’s whistle and the sweet smell of peas and beans in the garden.

None of the places and things Smith described are visible; even the actors used pantomimed props. But through superb narration and incredible acting, the audience can imagine all the invisible parts of the play.

To say the play was perfectly cast is an understatement. From the roles whose lines were minuscule to actors on stage nearly the entire time, each played their part brilliantly.

Seasoned actors played a few of the roles, depicting the parents and older town folk.  Two standout characters were Mrs. Webb, played by Elizabeth Henry, and Mrs. Gibbs, played by Dana Nelson-Isaacs.  The two mothers pulled off the subtle humor of their housewife characters as they performed routine tasks, like making breakfast and tending to their gardens.

Justin Brown and Alice Glass, who played main characters George Gibbs and Emily Webb, gave especially impassioned performances that had the audience smiling at their naiveté and nearly in tears as both gave in completely to the tragedy of their final scenes.

Glass’ performance was a perfect combination of nervousness, independence and need for anyone’s confirmation of love. As she broke down in the ending scenes, sniffles could be heard throughout the room. Brown’s portrayal of the clumsy, yet loveable George Gibbs melted the hearts of the audience and had everyone rooting for him to “get the girl.”

If there was one problem in the play it would be that the costumes seemed to be from different time periods.  The kids of the families were dressed in modern clothing.  The guys wore polo shirts and baseball caps but the girls were dressed more like what one would expect to find in the early 1900s. The adults were dressed in less modern outfits with men wearing slacks and nice collared shirts and the women wearing longer dresses, but vibrant in color. There did not seem like a cohesive direction for the costumes.

While the first act explores the background of the townspeople, the second and third acts are where the story develops. “Love and marriage” was the second act of “Our Town,” which explains the union of marriage and what it means for a small town. When someone falls in love and starts down that path, it really brings out a lot of emotion in the families and town people.

The third and final act of “Our Town” is titled “Death and Eternity” and the climax of the play will leave audiences shocked.  It shows what happens in a small town when someone who is loved dies unexpectedly: the grief that is left to those who are still alive.

“Our Town” is a simple yet stirring play exploring many thought-provoking concepts. The play allows the audience to escape from reality for a second and go into the past to a time of strict routines and happy-go-lucky people, yet makes them contemplate their own ideas of love, happiness and death.

The play runs March 15-17, with performances at 8 p.m. and matinees March 17 and 18 at 2 p.m.