Friday, August 27, 2010

Our Town - David Cromer Returns

It sounded like just another boring production of “Our Town,” Thornton Wilder’s classic play about everyday life in Grover’s Corner that’s been performed in virtually every high school in America at some point.

But David Cromer, who become one of the hottest directors in the entire country in the year and a half since his revival premiered Off-Broadway, had other things in mind.

Not only did Cromer opt to play the play’s stage-manager (i.e. narrator) himself, he removed the folksy sentimentality and nostalgia that is now associated with the play and replaced it with uncompromising reality.

The staging, which will shutter on September 10, now stands as the longest-running staging of “Our Town” in theater history. This week Cromer returned to the role of the stage-manager, which has alternatively been played by Helen Hunt and Michael McKean.

Cromer found deadpan humor and highlighted the play’s incredible darkness and sorrow. He gutted the Barrow Street Theater so that the audience surrounds the actors in a church basement style, adding intimacy and immediacy. The cast wears street clothes and the house lights are used.

Though the minimalistic set consists only of a few chairs and tables, Cromer has a coup de theatre in Act Three. When the deceased Emily is allowed to revisit her twelfth birthday, Cromer pulls a curtain and reveals a full set of the Webb family kitchen. This devastating trick highlights how it is only in death that Emily can truly appreciate the sights and sounds and flavor of everyday life.

Cromer portrays the Stage Manager in a low-key, casual style. The rest of the ensemble cast is similarly focused, allowing the play to resonate in a truly fresh manner.

If you go – “Our Town” plays at the Barrow Street Theater through Sept. 11.
27 Barrow St, 212-868-4444, ourtownoffbroadway.com.

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