A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler / Theater

A Singer’s Notes 30: Our Town, at Hubbard Hall. Go to this!

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The Cast of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" at Hubbard Hall. Photo © 2011 Jonathan Barber.
The Cast of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" at Hubbard Hall. Photo © 2011 Jonathan Barber.

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, at Hubbard Hall, Cambridge, New York

Thursday, March 10 at 8pm – Open Rehearsal/Pay-what-you-will
Friday, March 11 at 6pm – Opening Night Dinner
Friday, March 11 at 8pm – Performance (Opening Night)
March 12 at 8pm
March 13 at 2pm (matinee)
March 18 at 8pm
March 19 at 8pm
March 20 at 2pm (matinee)
March 25 at 8pm
March 26 at 8pm
March 27 at 2pm (matinee)
April 1 at 8pm
April 2 at 8pm
April 3 at 2pm (matinee)

Thoreau told us that the bluebird carries his sky on his back. He knew if we could see this we would know the color of Heaven. This is the way Our Town works. It is quiet. One scene — the one at the soda fountain — makes the difficulty of talking almost a touchable thing. Laconic sentences in the play mean more than just their sense; they pull the listener. “Know they will” says Howie Newsome, a couple of times. Syntax made into sound. To Wilder this seemed to be the language of New England. And this is precisely the sound that the Theatre Company at Hubbard Hall production found so directly last weekend. It was all going along well enough until the scene between the two young ones in the soda fountain. Then it was one of those times when that little voice says, “This is really good. I’ve never heard anything so good. This is one of those nights when it’s going to happen. I will not forget this. How did they hear it so well? This is how I knew it would sound. Will it ever be like this again —  even tomorrow night?” You know what I mean. There was nothing much to see in the scene, just a board over two chairs, but there, two very, very fine young actors made us believe that their love was not only carried but embraced by their reticence. It’s a quiet scene, full of stops. It’s a proposal, but one in which the word “marry” is never said. Alexandra Jennings’s Emily was an astounding creation, like no other Emily I have seen. It was jerky, abrupt, strong, awkward, penetrating. She seemed like a real teenager, not a sentimental version of a teenager from a hundred years ago. She made you hear the waiting that women must do, and somehow you felt she led even then. Jim Staudt as George had an even tougher task. Being a wonderful actor, really wonderful, he made us believe he had a lot of trouble speaking. Most powerful in this scene was the utterly creative listening these two marvelous actors did, short terse sentences made into music, and the listening in between the most profound eloquence of all. I have to say that this was one of the finest 15 minutes on stage I have seen in years. I will not forget it. They made me see how beautifully the play works when the actors hear.

The Soda Fountain Scene in "Our Town" at Hubbard Hall. Photo © 2011 Jonathan Barber.
The Soda Fountain Scene in "Our Town" at Hubbard Hall. Photo © 2011 Jonathan Barber.

In the last act comes something startling. A character starts to really speak. The Stage Manager, played by Allen McCullough without affectation and more urbane than most, says in expansive language that we all know that something is eternal in us. He states this flat out, no hedging, richly.  He tells us that we do not understand what living is, and he is right. To most of us, a bluebird is just a bluebird. But here in the cemetery the dead are speaking in tones which become part of the setting sun. Emily, alas, has died in childbirth and longs to return to human life, not seeing yet, not understanding. This again was played by the superb Alexandra Jennings who understands so much, and used that to not understand believably.

Go to this production before it is too late. Directed with heart by Mr. McCullough and Randolyn Zinn, it is plain, and that is how it is true.

 

4 thoughts on “A Singer’s Notes 30: Our Town, at Hubbard Hall. Go to this!

  1. Thanks for such a wonderful review of this play. My niece Alex Jennings is quite a young lady. I am so proud of her. Don’t mean to sound like a doting uncle , but I know how hard she works for her art and it is wonderful to see someone of your caliber recognize her talent. Thanks again. Thomas Lane

  2. And that is my brother and sister-in-law Allen and Randolyn. I just wish it weren’t 10 hours away!

  3. I watched Alex Jennings grow into the special young lady she is today. She was nurtured by a wonderful family and now those strengths are shining through. Thanks for a great review of a very deserving and talented young woman. I too wish I could see the play but Florida is just a little too far away.

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