Our Town | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Our Town, Writers' Theatre. The company inaugurates its elegant, intimate 108-seat thrust stage with Thornton Wilder's consummate tribute to democracy and decency. Though no one would confuse Glencoe with turn-of-the-20th-century Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, the immediacy and universality of this 1938 Pulitzer winner comes through in every minute of William Brown's fluid, sterling revival. Few plays have captured so well America's whole in the parts of a small town--with a large resonance. Stripping away the clutter and protective illusions of everyday existence, Wilder provides an unsentimental revelation: life's sheer transience means we can never treasure it enough.

Everything in this production--New England accents, mail-order clothing, the sound of a milk train to Maine--preserves Wilder's mythical realism. Though the 12-member cast is smaller than usual for the script, the actors sure-handedly bring this time trip into the present. Whether flinty, fervent, or utterly unpretentious, Ora Jones's Stage Manager seasons the story with a saving compassion. Kymberly Mellon's hopeful, doomed Emily conveys a da Vinci-like mystery, as if she could already see into the next world, while Jason Vizza grounds Emily's husband, George, in the unseeing ordinariness of "real life." Peggy Roeder wonderfully crafts a feisty professor and a weeping wedding guest. And as the alcoholic choirmaster, P.J. Powers conveys the anguish of an outsider in his own town. But everyone merits glory; not one false note spoils the spell. This is theater at its most communal and generous, a gift we get for being human.

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