‘Our Town’ and The Deaf West Theatre: A Beautiful Poignant Commentary On Life

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Photo by Jenny Graham

‘Our Town’ is a Pulitizer Prize-winning 1938 three act play by American playwright Thornton Wilder. It tells the story of the fictional American small town, Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire between 1901 and 1913 as its seen through the every day lives of its residents.  It was first performed at McCarter Theatre in Princeton New Jerey in 1938 and it later went on to great success on Broadway.

In 1939, ‘Our Town’ was produced by the Pasadena Playhouse as one of the first regional productions of the play and now in 2017, it has returned, and it’s still relevant after all these years.

When we take our seats we see a bare stage with a solitary light. We meet the main character, a stage manager (beautifully played by Jane Kaczmarek) who introduces us to the many residents of this quiet little town as they do their simple everyday chores; cooking breakfast, getting the kids off to school, the milkman delivering milk, This act the stage manager tells us is called ‘Daily Life’.

We also meet two neighboring families; Doctor and Misses Gibbs (Jud Williford and Alexandria Wailes). They are parents to George (Deric Augustine and Rebecca (Amanda McDonough). Then we are introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Webb (Russell Harvard, Annika Marks) and their daughter, Emily (the excellent Sandra Mae Frank).

In the second act, entitled ‘Love and Marriage’ we find out that Emily and George are about to get married. Before the wedding the characters get the typical cold feet and express their doubts. We also flash back to the beginning of the couple’s courtship, and of course the wedding goes on.

The last act entitled ‘Death and Dying’ is for me, the most meaningful one. We discover that Emily has died during childbirth. She joins her deceased mother-in-law in the town’s graveyard along with other townspeople who have also died. Emily desires to return to the living, despite the warnings of her fellow deceased citizens of Grover’s Corners. Ignoring their warnings, she picks the day of her 12th birthday to re-live.

Watching her family prepare for her birthday party, she sees how distracted everyone is. No one is really talking to one another, and they are basically taking life and each other for granted. It’s here that Emily, utters  a line, that for me, is the essence of the play, “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

“Our Town,” may seem simple on the surface, but believe me, it’s not. It’s about living our lives in the moment and really seeing one another. There are many reasons to see this iconic play, but the most important one is to experience the brilliant work by the actors of the Tony-winning Deaf West Theatre Company. They are extremely talented and elevate this production many times over.

“Our Town,” directed by Sheryl Kaller and choregraphed by David Dorfman, opens the 100th season of the Pasadena Playhouse and they picked the perfect production to celebrate their long reign.

The play opened on Sunday, October 1, 2017 and runs through October 22nd. To purchase tickets, please go to The Pasadena Playhouse.  39 S. El Molina Avenue, Pasadena CA 91101

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Joan Alperin

About Joan Alperin

Joan was born in Brooklyn and spent many years working as an actress in New York City. Even though she traveled extensively, Joan couldn't imagine living anywhere else.. Well one day, she met someone at a party who regaled her with stories about living in L. A. specifically Topanga Canyon. A few weeks later she found herself on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Joan immediately fell in love with the town and has been living here for the last twenty years and yes, she even made it to Topanga Canyon, where she now resides, surrounded by nature, deer, owls and all kinds of extraordinary alien creatures.. Joan continued acting, but for the last several years (besides reviewing plays and film) she has been writing screenplays. Joan was married to a filmmaker who created the cult classic films, (way before she knew him) Faces of Death. As a result of his huge following, they created a funny movie review show entitled Two Jews on Film, where Joan and her husband, John would review movies and rate them with bagels You can see their reviews by going to youtube.com/twojewsonfilm. Although it's now only one Jew - Joan is occasionally joined by her beautiful Pekingnese and Japanese Chin.
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