I have been a fan of Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning classic Our Town since seeing the fantastic Lincoln Center revival in 1988, directed by Gregory Mosher and starring Spalding Gray, Eric Stoltz, and Penelope Ann Miller. I thought it was a wonderfully spare revival with deftly underplayed performances from the entire cast. I can still remember the late Mr. Gray's delivery of the final soliloquy. I also saw the Westport County Playhouse revival in 2003 with Paul Newman as the Stage Manager, and while it was great to see one of my childhood crushes on stage, that production felt more like a museum piece than anything else.
Now, we have David Cromer's Off-Broadway production at the Barrow Street Theatre. My friends, it is perfection. It may be the best thing running in New York right now. If you think you've seen enough productions of the Thornton Wilder classic in your lifetime, see this one and it just may change your outlook on life, love, humanity, and death. Nothing is forced; it's a very straightforward presentation, with Cromer managing to open the play up and amplify many of its themes in a way that is as joyous as it is simplistic.
For those unfamiliar with Our Town, it takes place in the early 20th century and is all about the people living in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. Throughout the three-part play, we learn details about the town, the families and individuals who live there, love and marriage, and life and death. It is a simple tale, full of details of small-town life: church choir on Wednesday night, milk delivered fresh each morning, breakfast to be made, chickens to be fed — and slowly, as the action moves forward, we are drawn into this simple way of life and its seemingly endless and trivial repetitions.