Long before there was Jerry Seinfeld and his eponymous show about nothing, there was Thornton Wilder and his play about nothing. While Seinfeld mined the mundane in big-city living for often outrageous hilarity, Our Town took a gentler approach to the day-to-day minutiae of life in early 20th-century small-town America. The Ross Valley Players have a production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama through Feb. 25.
An early example of modern metatheatre, the three-act show opens with the Stage Manager (Lisa Morse) introducing the audience to “Daily Life” of the community of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in 1901. We get the layout of the town before we encounter its citizens. We meet the paperboy (Dalton Ortiz) and the milkman (Justin Hernandez) before focus turns to two Grover’s Corners families.
There’s Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs (Michael-Paul Thomsett, Lauri Smith) and their children, George (Jaedan Sanchez) and Rebecca (Alexandra Fry). Next door is the Webb family. Mr. Webb, the local newspaper editor (Steve Price), and his wife (Jennifer S. McGeorge) are also raising two children, a daughter, Emily (Tina Traboulsi), and a son, Wally (Ortiz).
The second act jumps three years later and brings “Love and Marriage” to George and Emily while the third act jumps another nine years and brings “Death and Eternity.” Life goes on for some. For others, it doesn’t.
Director Chloe Bronzan has melded a group of RVP regulars with a few newcomers and come up with a very tight ensemble. Morse’s Stage Manager is well-grounded and really connects with the audience. Thomsett, Smith, Price and McGeorge all bring a mixture of gravitas and gentle humor to their roles. Sanchez could stand to bring a bit more immaturity to his younger George to allow us to better appreciate his growing into a man. Traboulsi is the standout with her charming, delightful and doomed Emily. The rest of the ensemble all provide solid supporting work.
Wilder’s original stage directions specifically state “no scenery.” Plain wooden chairs, tables, two arched trellises and a couple of ladders are all there are set-wise. Props are well-mimed by the cast. Costumes by Michael A. Berg are what bring period and character to the forefront.
Wilder stated that he wrote Our Town as “an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our life.” There is a simpleness and sincerity to the Ross Valley Players production with which audiences should find great value.
‘Our Town’ runs through Feb. 25 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Thurs.-Sat., 7:30pm; Sun., 2pm. $20-$35. 415.456.9555. rossvalleyplayers.com.