When Thorton Wilder debuted his classic Our Town in the Boston Theatre, critics laughed his show out of the city. There were none of the detailed sets or fog machines or fight scenes that theatre -goers loved. Besides a few fourth wall elements, it was a very dialogue heavy show, with words that carried the weight of some good old-fashioned pathos. Apparently, this was not enough for Boston critics. They complained that not enough happened in the show. Since then, this quiet masterpiece has garnered a Pulitzer Prize, been acclaimed as a hallmark in American theatre of the past century, and been performed for the past 72 years almost nonstop.
On Thursday, December 5th, the Friendswood High School theatre department debuted their own production of Our Town. With its sparse set and small stage, the play’s atmosphere thrived entirely on the believability of it’s actors. Connor Henry plays the iconic role of the Stage Manager, a Rod Serling meets Mr. Rogers-esque character, who guides the audience through the town of Grover’s Corner. In his calm, lilting voice, Connor explained that the enduring quality of the show is due to it’s universal messages, “The show is about everything, and yet nothing at all”.
Newcomers Kyle Dickens and Elaine Roher brought warmth and sincerity in their portrayals of two teenagers on the brink of adulthood. They captured the excited energy and naïveté of youth perfectly. Both sets of parents believably embodied the stoic sensibilities of the time; still you experience the small moments and heartbreak of raising children. The rest of the cast was just as memorable as they portrayed the residents of Grover’s Corner. Although no props or backdrops were used, the show still conveyed the feeling of a picturesque town. In fact, the lack of these objects made one focus on what really matters, both in theatre and life, the people.
The message of Our Town is what has made it resonate for generations with audiences. Thorton’s play perfectly captures poignant moments in this slice of Americana and preserves them with nostalgic wisdom. In short, everyone needs to see this play, where better than in the small town of Friendswood. But be sure and bring a Kleenex for the Third Act.
Friendswood High School’s Our Town runs from December 5th to 7th at 7 pm. Tickets are 10 dollars at the door.