BWW Review: OUR TOWN visits the past at The Armory
The Armory in Janesville is a quaint venue. Quaint in the fact that is intimate and the staff is small town friendly and accommodating. The meal was delicious and the atmosphere warm and inviting. I often skip commenting on venues because I have been in them before. I had not been to the Armory before. According the website The Armory was "Originally built in 1930 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Armory features a stunning array of brickwork, terrazzo floors, and decorative iron." It is a beautiful venue and it was a beautiful play.
Most people will know the story of Our Town. Small town 1901, slice of life, boy (George Gibbs) meets girl (Emily Webb), falls in love gets married and live less than happily ever after. I was not familiar with this play and enjoyed having it unravel for me. Tom Hensen did a stand-up job as the character of Stage Manager, who narrates the tale and ensures that the play continues to move forward. His reading on the character was reminiscent of Wilford Brimley. Some of you may be too young to know who that is, suffice it to say it is a good and appropriate comparison and a great choice. (If you need further information on Mr. Brimley, there is always google)
Grover's Corners is of course the backdrop to the romance of George Gibbs (Jon Churchwell) and Emily Webb (Amanda Rodriquez). With minimal set to interfere with the actor's ability to carry the story the play moves along initially at a refreshing small-town pace. In this era of instant communication and fast paced entertainment, I found it refreshing to be granted permission to just slow down. The pace picked up in the second act and came to a head in act three. (My favorite of the acts!)
From the initial setting of the backstory in the first act through the wedding and into the finally, Both Jon and Amanda did a fantastic job of showing the progression from innocent naivety to frightened young adults to what they would become.
The final act is my favorite due to content and the incredible acting of everyone gracing the stage in those final scenes. The emotions were real, the characters had a quality of genuineness about them. I can tell you from experience that it takes a lot out of an actor to portray grief, and the grief portrayed was not over the top as it could have been. George was raw and in pain, Emily after being warned, returned to her initial naivety briefly before realizing that all things are connected. This was a very good production and if you're in the area, you will want to attend the entire event, including a great dinner complete with wedding cake!
JANESVILLE, WI- A landmark in American drama, Thornton Wilders Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town tells the story of a small town, Grover's Corners, in order to tell us the story of every town, the whole world over. Narrated by the Stage Manager, we follow the Gibbs and Webb families, residents of Grover's Corners, through twelve years of life changes. Through the young lovers Emily and George, their strong parents, and the many other Grover's Corners locals, Wilder delivers the universal truth about what it means to be human. 'Oh, earth,' Emily Webb exclaims towards the plays end, 'you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you.' With humor, wit, and exceptionally powerful storytelling, Our Town offers a unique opportunity for audience members to make precisely that realization.
Our Town is directed and designed by New York City director/designer Matthew Imhoff who has returned to his hometown of Janesville to stage this American classic. Imhoff works professionally as a theatre director and designer and his work has been seen across the country to critical acclaim. Favorite projects include West Side Story (Carnegie Hall, assistant to Edward Pierce); Hamlet and Five Flights (Off-Broadway); Cyrano de Bergerac; The Little Mermaid (tour). He designed the 2016 KOTA Sustainable Fashion Awards and collaborated as the lead designer on Hippos, Inc., an immersive avant-garde performance art installation for the Panorama Music Festival and featured in the New Yorker Magazine.
Our Town is produced by Brett J. Frazier, also a Janesville area native and also a Working Theatre professional. Frazier is a busy musical theatre actor working across the country and can be seen this year performing in Newsies, Footloose and Into the Woods as well as Million Dollar Quartet. Frazier was a company member at The Armory for six seasons from 2006-2011 appearing in more than 1,000 performances on The Armory stage. In 2012 The Armory stopped producing live theatre due in large part to the struggling local economy. Frazier revived live theatre production at The Armory, by this time under new ownership, in 2015 and has produced several events including the acclaimed 2016 production of Avenue Q.
At The Armory, the show is only a part of the experience. Guests are treated a dinner expertly prepared by the Executive Chef and his staff. Dessert is served directly after the onstage wedding of Emily and George and guests will be treated to their own slice of Vintage Almond Wedding Cake with Buttercream Frosting, French Vanilla Ice Cream with Red Raspberry Sauce.
Evening show dates and times are May 19th, 20th, 26th and 27th at 7:30pm, and Sunday Matinees on May 21st and 28th at 1:30pm. Tickets are $25 for Show-Only, or $49 for Show and Dinner. Student Show-Only tickets may be purchased for just $15. Dinner begins approximately one hour prior to show time.