'Our Town' at Little Theatre of Manchester for play's 75th anniversary

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Apr. 5, 2013
Contributed
Townspeople pause to gaze at the moon in a scene in 'Our Town' at Little Theatre of Manchester. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

They say that every day in America, an audience is watching “Our Town.” People in and around Manchester will get their chance starting Friday, April 12, at the Little Theatre of Manchester at Cheney Hall.

This is the 75th anniversary of Thornton Wilder's classic play. Director Debi Freund calls it “the definitive American play.”

“It's a slice of life of America,” said Freund. Set in the fictional Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, the location has a ubiquitous quality. “It's any town, it's Manchester. And the people in it, even though it starts off in 1901, are you and me; it's our neighbors, our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. It's us,” Freund said.

The play follows the story of two neighbors, Emily and George, who grow up together and eventually marry. “It follows the whole cycle of life,” Freund said. “The whole point of Wilder's story is to remind everyone that the wonder and glory of life is not in the great big moments, it's in the little day-to-day moments that we all take for granted,” she said. “The great sorrow is that once they go by, we can never do them again.”

This sentiment is best expressed by one of Emily's lines near the end of the play, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every day?”

Wilder stripped his play to the bare minimum when he wrote it in 1938. Sets and props were dispensed with in this meditation of the “little things” in life. The play is divided into three acts: Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity.

Emily and George are played by Manchester residents Erin Williams and David Lopes. Mark O'Donnell brings life to the play's lead: the Stage Manager.

“The Stage Manager breaks through the fourth wall and interacts directly with the audience, and he reminds them that they in fact are not participants, they are spectators, that we in fact are putting on a play,” Freund said. “It's his job to teach the audience the wisdom that Wilder was passing on.”

Freund believes O'Donnell is wonderful in his portrayal of the Stage Manager. “He's great in this role,” she said.

Those familiar with the play will have a surprise in store for them. A revival of the show in recent years has adapted the ending. Freund has incorporated an adapted ending as well. “It's going to be a surprise to people who think they already know the story of 'Our Town,'” said Freund.

Regular patrons of LTM productions will also be interested to know that the Cheney Hall antique pipe organ will be used in the play, marking the first time it has been used in a production.

Freund can attest that the play is close to her heart and to the hearts of the 27 cast members. “It's just a vibrant, funny and poignant show,” she said. “It is truly a beautiful play.”

The show will run April 12–14, April 18–21 and April 26–28. Show times are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Cheney Hall is located at 177 Hartford Road in Manchester. Tickets are available for purchase at cheneyhall.org or by calling the box office at 860-647-9824.


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