By Marianne Donnelly
Marianne Donnelly tours the country as Louisa May Alcott and others.
Majestic Theatre's Brilliant Immersive "Our Town" (Show and Dinner)Through May 5 at 1217 S. Main, Arts District, Vegas
“It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another...
Do human beings ever realize, life, while they live it? — Every, every, minute?
They just don't understand, do they?...That's all human beings are--
Just blind people..." (Emily Gibbs).
"...That's what it was to be alive: To move about in a cloud of ignorance; to go up and down trampling on the feelings of others...
to spend, and waste, time, as though you had a million years.
Now, you know..." (Simon Stimson)
These quotes from "Our Town" are just a few of the well known bon-mots from this one of Thornton Wilder's three Pulitzer Prize winning works, playing through May 5 at Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 S. Main St. Las Vegas.
Grover’s Corners, Our Town's fictional town, is based on Peterborough, New Hampshire, where Thornton summered and where he penned part of this play at the prestigious MacDowell (Artist) Colony. Fittingly, as part of a dual celebration of the town's 275th and the play's 75th anniversaries, Peterborough dedicated the intersection of Grove and Main to "Our Town," erecting street signs that read "Grover's Corners."
"Our Town" is often described as a meta-drama, which implies it is "a level beyond" the subject-matter that the play quantifies. In this case, Wilder's interest in the magnificence of mundane everyday experiences and commonalities, is subtly delivered through theatrical techniques herequired, which were novel in 1938, when this play debuted to mixed reviews.
Thornton's use of repetition; dissolving the "fourth wall" by the narrating Stage Manager; a specifically minimal set; use of crisp pantomime; and exacting gentle pace, went counter to the overblown productions of that time.
To say this play has been produced in nearly every community theatre, high school, as well as on professional stages globally, since the movie version of 1940, is not hyperbole. Not only for the humanity of the story, but for the fact that stripped of all the trim, the script shines (and for budget challenged venues it's a relief to not be burdened by set and costume cost.)
Majestic, however, under April Allain as the Production Designer, does a most amazing elegant substitute for those elements, by adding story-specific fine art to all the walls!
I recommend going early to take time to enjoy these before the show. Included are numerous pieces that are referred to in the script: the butternut tree, Mt. Monodnock, Whistler's mother, the antique map of New Hampshire, and 60 more pieces! Set upon the exact right crimson-toned walls, this museum quality display, in and of itself, is worth a trip!
Spaulding Gray and Henry Fonda and numerous stars have portrayed the Stage Manager, each one being unique. In Majestic's production, Ronn L. Williams brings a warmth and nobility perfectly conducive to this superior cast who update "Grover's Corners" to being very much Your Town 2019.
This refreshingly brilliant update is that we meet working, loving people in this cast that are every bit representative of total American society. Rather than give away the seamless technical method used to expand beyond the usual casting, suffice to say, you are in for a treat: a welcoming human-garden, rich in variety, each with nuance and depth.
I have performed Emily, and watched this show many times in many venues. This production touched my heart deeply as directed by Troy Heard.
Subtlety in lighting by Josh O'Brien and spot-on sound effects by Adam Dunson, who also portrays a deeply centered even though troubled, choir master, Simon Stimson, work to drive the story. Adam was voted Best Actor last year at the Vegas Valley Awards.
Emily Webb (Amanda Guardado) is just exactly what Wilder wanted her to be: played less coy than most actresses, Amanda allows Emily's intelligence to be appreciated.
Mrs. Webb, played by Gigi Guizado is played wise and strong.
George Gibbs, the handsome, baseball loving, boy next door that marries Emily, played by Garrison Quizon, is played with confidence and youth, forgoing the "fidgety" portrayals often adopted by actors.
His father, Dr. Gibbs (Angel Mendoza) is the kind of doctor I would want: real, open, loving, honest and affectionate...not the stuffy off-the-shelf portrayal.
Mrs. Gibbs (Bridget Carlvin) is the kind of mom we want as well. Equally warm, firm, and emotionally available.
Howie Newsome, who delivers milk unfailingly on time, no matter the weather, brings pantomime of that stubborn cart-horse to a fine art in the hands of Ruliko Cronin, who also portrays other characters with precision.
Mrs. Soames by Jae Song is a lovable, effusive "every town has one" character that brings levity to the story. Jae portrays other characters as well.
Perhaps one key to unlocking Wilder's keen observations of humankind is this quip from "Our Town,"
"Wherever you come near the human race, there’s layers and layers of nonsense..."
But in this production, nonsense, is the one thing you won't encounter!