By Erika Nichols-Frazer
The Stowe Theater Guild’s two-week production of the classic theatrical play “Our Town” kicked off on July 14. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays ending on July 30, with shows at 7:30 p.m. and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturdays. Masks are required for audience members at all performances.
The play, which was written by Thorton Wilder in 1938 and won a Pulitzer Prize, is set in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, and follows the daily lives and life cycles of typical characters in a small town in the early 1900s. The everyday workings of a rural American town at the turn of the century featuring such characters as the milk man, the town physician, and the local newspaper editor. Rebecca Driscoll shines as Emily Webb, a smart, earnest, hardworking young girl whom the play follows from adolescence to death. Ashley Hall plays George Gibbs, Emily’s love interest from another Grover’s Corner family. While there is no one main character, the story centers around the duo as they grow up.
“Although it is set in a very specific time and place, what Wilder is writing about is nearly universal,” director Michael Halloran said. “We can still relate to these people because we still experience what they do: the small joys and frustrations of daily life as well as the big moments of love and loss. And Wilder tells us that all these moments, the big and small, are to be treasured because they are just that: fleeting moments."
The cast includes Valley residents Ashley Hall as George Gibbs, Susan Loynd as Howie Newsome/Sam Craig, Rachel Natvig as Mrs. Webb, Marci Robinson as Mrs. Soames and Cynthia Seckler and Marie A. Schmukal as Mrs. Gibbs (Seckler plays the character in the evenings and Schmukal takes on the role for Saturday matinees).
Fayston actor Doug Bergstein recently hosted Halloran and Hall on the MRVTV show “Theater Time.” In the interview, Hall said that the cast has had a Valley carpool to Stowe for rehearsals and performances.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by Matt Bellew as Mr. Gibbs, Rebecca Driscoll as Emily Webb, Wes Olds as Simon Stimson, Adi See as Joel Crowell/Rebecca Gibbs/Farmer McCarty, Asher Smith as Wally Webb/Si Crowell, Michael Smith as the “stage manager,” Clem Turmel as Mr. Webb and Teddy Waszazak as Professor Willard/Constable Warren. The crew includes director and sound designer Michael Halloran, producer Cheryl Casey, assistant director/stage manager Catie Smith, technical director/lighting designer Don Mersereau, costume coordinator Alison Norcross, sound board operator AJ Brooks, carpenter Benjamin Brownell and poster artwork by Asher and Wren Smith.
With minimal sets, few props, and continuous narration by “the stage manager,” played by Michael Smith, the action is subdued and the play relies heavily on character development through a series of vignettes. At two and a half hours, the quiet play does, at times, feel a bit slow, but superb acting holds up the drama of small-town life. The three acts are “The Daily Life,” “Love and Marriage” and “Death and Eternity,” taking us from 1901 to 1913 as the town is changing and characters are forced to adapt. The play transports theatergoers to the simplicity of rural life over a century ago through realism and talented acting, a nice respite from the fast-paced world of today.