Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, A co-production of Walking the Dog Theatre and PS21, directed by David Anderson

In the past week I have seen three plays, and each has been a play about community and/or family: Ödön von Horváth’s Judgment Day, part of Bard’s Summerfest, John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, and the quintessential play of small town American, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Horváth presents a small town as well, an Austro-Hungarian community poisoned and corrupted by its own preferences, which are fickle, of course, because the preferences depend on rumour and whim. Six Degrees of Separation explores an even scarier community, the impersonal environment of Manhattan, where standing, one thinks, has to be maintained on a daily basis, if one doesn’t want simply to disappear from the world. Our Town’s reputation as an American classic which resonates the true spirit of the simple life of rural New England has remained almost inviolable, although it is the work of a cosmopolitan homosexual who grew up in an intellectual mid-western family. His American simplicity came from his friend Gertrude Stein, not an intimate acquaintance with life in the Monadnock region. We accept it as a play that rings true, but, knowing that Our Town is anything but a series of impressions of the playwright’s youth in southern New Hampshire, I still find that Wilder can still get his audiences to meet him on his own terms. He is looking at his characters and their environment from a certain metaphysical distance.

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