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Review: ‘Our Town’ still holds the same magic
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Review: ‘Our Town’ still holds the same magic

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Our Town

George Gibbs (Stephen Rodgers), left, listens to his future mother-in-law, Mrs. Webb, played by Cheryl O’Curran, in this scene from Kearney Community Theatre’s production of “Our Town” by Thorton Wilder. Mr. Webb (Scott Unruh) sips his coffee as he waits his turn to offer some advice to his future son-in-law. The show opens today and continues through Oct. 10. Tickets are $16-$20.

KEARNEY — Kearney Community Theatre’s production of “Our Town” exists and breathes in the quiet spaces of everyday life.

The famous scene featuring George Gibbs (Stephen Rodgers) and Emily Webb (Amelia Rodgers) as teenage sweethearts watching the moonlight from their respective bedrooms still resonates across the ages, speaking of those moments when love stirs and the quiet sounds of the evening arouse the senses. George and Emily stand on ladders and speak to each other as neighbors and lifelong mates. The 1938 play by Thorton Wilder comes across as a simple, direct celebration of life, love and death in a small town.

David Rozema takes on the role of the stage manager, a narrator and omnipresent voice that often directs the scenes and supplies commentary on life at Grover’s Corners, N.H. Early in the production, the Stage Manager introduces Professor Willard (Sam Umland, who also directs the play) to the audience.

“Grover’s Corners lies on the old Pleistocene granite of the Appalachian range,” the professor says. “I may say it’s some of the oldest land in the world. We’re very proud of that.”

The professor talks as if the residents of the small town had some affect on the very land where they stand. The entire play quietly celebrates the simple moments of everyday life, and when compressed, give the audience a powerful vision of everyday life mixed with the complexities of eternity.

Kearney Community Theatre’s production, opening today and continuing through Oct. 10, follows all the rules of a traditional presentation of “Our Town,” something most students read at some point during their academic career. Even though audiences know the play, seeing it again still holds the same magic when Wilder wrote it more than eight decades ago.

With a minimal set and mimed objects, the actors invite the audience into their lives. All of the performers do an outstanding job to dig deeply into their characters. Bill Wood, as Dr. Gibbs, helps to set the tone of the play. He makes use of the quiet moments, communicating with a sigh or a raised eyebrow. Watch for the work of Scott Unruh, as the editor Mr. Webb, who also anchors the scenes of the play with authority.

Cheryl O’Curran, as Mrs. Webb, and Christina Thornton, as Mrs. Gibbs, play off each other as neighbors and friends, feeding chickens, making meals and taking joy and singing in the church choir.

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The first act, called “Daily Life,” establishes the groundwork for the play, introducing the characters, the setting and the situation. In the second act, “Love and Marriage,” the playwright advances the plot as George and Emily confess their love for each other — along with their trepidation of marriage.

Steven Rodgers, as George, plays the part with exuberance as a youth, confidence as a young man and finally with insight as an adult. Emily Webb, played by Amelia Rodgers, questions her worth to her mother, only to get chastised for being too proud.

“Am I pretty?” the girl asks.

Her mother retorts, “I’ve already told you, yes. Now that’s enough of that. You have a nice young pretty face. I never heard of such foolishness.”

It’s that foolishness that strikes at the heart of this drama. It reminds the viewers of the desire to fit in, yet to be noticed — and most of all, loved.

With a cast of 18, the production features too many outstanding performances to note them all.

The real power of “Our Town” comes from the leaps of time, finishing with the third act, “Death and Eternity.” The ending reminds us to cherish the small, intimate moments that make our lives so rich and so rewarding. Punctuated by the powerful performers, the solemn plots and the wisps of humor, this beloved piece of American theater deserves a viewing even for those who know it backward and forward.

In the final act, Emily asks the Stage Manager, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?”

“No,” the Stage Manager responds and then adds, “The saints and poets, maybe — they do some.”

rick@YardLightMedia.com

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