Long Wharf Theatre
Thornton Wilder’s timeless 1938 play, “Our Town” is currently being given an entirely splendid production at Long Wharf Theatre. Staged on an expansive set (expertly designed by Eugene Lee) and filled with a cast of extremely gifted actors, this production of “Our Town” marks the 50th Anniversary season of Long Wharf Theatre and they could not have chosen a more fitting play to mark that milestone. Though some may feel that “Our Town” is perhaps an overly familiar, overly produced play, the freshness of Long Wharf’s production is felt right from the start, and only grows in power over its moving three acts.
Credit director Gordon Edelstein for making this play feel so universal, and the show is also blessed with a superb “Stage Manager,” in the person of Myra Lucretia Taylor. And though “Our Town” was first produced over seventy years ago, the topics and emotions evoked from it are pertinent to any generation and prove to be as timely as ever. “Our Town” is playing at Long Wharf Theatre until November 2nd and it is highly recommended that you take a trip there and be moved anew by this beautiful play.
Another aspect of this staging that makes “Our Town” feel so new and fresh is in its use of color-blind casting, which works extraordinarily well and reminded me of another production I saw—Lincoln Center Theatre’s landmark 1994 revival of “Carousel”—that similarly employed this type of casting so successfully. Like “Carousel,” the overall effect actually helps make “Our Town” feel even richer and more all encompassing. And it must be stated that the cast is universally terrific and each and every role is perfectly cast.
In any production of “Our Town,” the character of the Stage Manager takes centerstage and, as mentioned, this new revival is enriched with the casting of Myra Lucretia Taylor in that role. I saw this actress do fine work as Saraghina in the 2003 Broadway revival of the musical “Nine” and she actually proves to be even more effective here. Taylor really anchors the play and is, by turns, slyly funny and deeply profound, and always in full command of the show. If for no other reason, Long Wharf’s revival of “Our Town” would be worth attending just to see Myra Lucretia Taylor, but everyone shines in this production.
Also standing out are the two contrasting “mother” characters in the cast, Christina Rouner and Linda Powell, who both bring a great deal of heart and feeling to their roles. Playing their respective husbands, Leon Addison Brown and Don Sparks are figures of strength and compassion. And I have yet to even mention perhaps the two most important characters in the show, the young Emily and George, who marry in the second act. As Emily, Jenny Leona is all appealing girlishness and Rey Lucas is quite endearing as George, who nicely evolves from a young teenage boy to a suitable husband. Together, these actors prove to be a charming couple and one grows to truly care about them deeply.
It is important that the audience feels something strong for the union of Emily and George in order for the last act to work as well as it does. (It should be mentioned again here that “Our Town” is a three act play, with two intermissions, but, for those who are wary, the time flies by). Not to give too much away, but the third act is where the play truly comes to a head and gains the most in power and emotion. Indeed the overall effect by the conclusion proves to be almost overwhelmingly moving and, at the performance I attended, there were more than a few audience members left teary-eyed.
Long Wharf Theatre’s production of “Our Town” truly makes the case that Thornton Wilder’s play will always be relevant and, when it is directed and acted as richly as it is in this current revival, that overall effect only deepens. “Our Town” is one of the most powerful shows I’ve ever seen at Long Wharf Theatre and, as such, proves to be an ideal play to mark the theatre’s 50th Anniversary season. By all means, go to see “Our Town” and make sure you bring tissues.
“Our Town” continues performances at Long Wharf Theatre through November 2nd. For tickets, please visit www.longwharf.org or call the box office at 203-787-4282.