Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's reviews of There's Always the Hudson and The Joy That Carries You and coverage of Carol Burnett Honored with Signature Theatre's Sondheim Award
To emphasize the sense of community and regathering after two years of COVID isolation, the director and design team have reimagined Washington's Sidney Harman Hall, changing it from the usual vast proscenium stage into an arena configuration with audience seating on all sides. In keeping with Wilder's instructions for a minimalist staging, scenic designer Wilson Chin lays out the action on an unadorned, raised wooden platform overhung with wooden arches suggesting a rustic church, set with plain wooden chairs and tables. Two spiral staircases at upstage left and right, usually used for backstage access, also get their moment in the spotlight.
While Wilder was writing about a small, largely homogeneous New Hampshire town in the early 20th century, his scope is universal, and Paul has expanded upon that theme with a diverse cast that represents many elements of the community, including offstage couples and families. The heart of this production is Holly Twyford as the omniscient Stage Manager, who with great warmth and compassion sets the scenes, introduces the characters, and offers thought-provoking comments about the smallest elements of each day.
Chinna Palmer and Jake Loewenthal give glowing performances, individually and together, as Emily and George, the young couple who grow up together, marry, and face tragedy. Palmer especially shines in the third act, when Emily finally understands that each moment in a life–no matter how minor–is unique and meaningful.
The company, including understudies, has no weak links, from the parents of Emily (Felicia Curry and Elliot Dash, in for Craig Wallace) and George (Natascia Diaz and Todd Scofield, in for Eric Hissom) to the thumbnail sketches of gossiping Mrs. Soames (Sarah C. Marshall), self-destructive Simon Stimson (Lawrence Redmond), and pompous Professor Willard (Erin Weaver, in for Kimberly Schraf).
Many subtle touches underlie the seeming simplicity of the production, from Michael John LaChiusa's underscoring and hymn tunes through Sarafina Bush's costumes and Philip Rosenberg's pinpoint lighting.
Our Town runs through June 11, 2022, at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, please call 202-547-1122 or 877-487-8849 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.
By Thornton Wilder