BWW Review: OUR TOWN at The City Theatre Austin
"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures" - Thornton Wilder
It's a bit embarrassing to admit that a life-long theatre junkie like me had never seen OUR TOWN until last Saturday night. I have read it and loved it of course; I am familiar with the plot, characters, etc, but had never actually experienced this American treasure and I am so glad and grateful I got to see this production. Austin Theatre lovers have a special affinity for The City Theatre I think because it's a "neighborhood" theatre. Andy Berkovsky and company treat you like family and instead of dropping in for coffee, we drop in for some quality art time.
This time around, OUR TOWN is presented in a delightful gem-of-a-space aptly named Picture Box Studio, on Tillery Street. I thought I might have to come back another time because it was sold out and people were clamoring to get seats but Andy always manages to make things work; and oh how beautifully this play works - pure theatre magic. I don't compare plays for all the obvious reasons, but I must admit I saw another play this week that could not have been more different. The amount of money lavished on the other play was just this side of obscene. It was beautiful, in many ways 'perfect' and entertaining, but it couldn't hold a candle to OUR TOWN. Yeah yeah yeah, "apples to oranges", but the other play just didn't 'stay with me' and OUR TOWN did; OUR TOWN does.
Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece manipulated me like playdough and I loved every minute and did not want it to end. It made me laugh, broke my heart, dredged up memories from a lifetime ago and... it haunted me. It still haunts me, every time I think of it which has been every day this week. OUR TOWN is nostalgic without being sappy. It makes you feel patriotic - as proud to be an American as are the no-nonsense Yankees of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. It reminds you of the human condition, the beauty and the childlike wonder of this messy business of living.
The Stage Manager is my favorite role and Chuck Winkler is a perfect choice. His character has the luxury of being able to break the fourth wall at any moment, glide into and out of a character, and even to reverse time itself.
Catherine Williams is simply adorable as Emily. Beautiful inside and out, Emily also has an acute perception of her place in the world, what she wants from it and what she has to offer. It's no wonder that young George Gibbs would fall madly in love with her, who wouldn't? Eli Berke imbues George with boyish charm endemic to small town life circa 1901 - 1913.
Surrounding these central characters are an ensemble cast of characters you have known all your life. You recognize these people, you remember them, you miss them and you long to be with them again.
Do yourselves a favor and don't miss OUR TOWN. I recommend you snag your tickets quick because it will sell out fast. Visit firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-524-2870.