Produced by: Foothill Theatre
Directed by: Bruce McLeod
Featuring: Carla Befera, Samantha Rose, Peter Spoelstra, Anthony Silk, Dee Baily, Edie Dwan, Bill Dwan, James Hardee, Sam Woodbury, Abbey Eklund, Stony Tan, Elyssa Tingley, Richard Horner, Alexis, Standridge, MC Smitherman, Jonathon Wright, Autumn Gonzalez and Lisa Romanovich
Running time: 120 minutes, two intermission
When: November 3-20, 2016
Where: Lohman Theatre, Foothill College, 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills
Tickets: $5-$20. Call 650-949-7360 or Visit foothill.edu/theatre
to Wilder's 'Our Town'
to Foothill College's Lohman Theatre
"Our Town," by Thornton Wilder, is one of those plays that is taught too early in schools, before most students' brains and hearts have developed enough to truly appreciate its beauty.
And it is often presented by half-hearted casts at high schools, where if usually sits on the stage like a lump of sodden biscuit.
But director Bruce McLeod and his team at Foothill Theatre have done a mostly excellent job producing the classic 1938 play in a way that brings its many quiet truths and beauties to the forefront.
Start with how it is staged: A table and three chairs in a very small space, surrounded closely by the audience. When the most excellent Carla Befera comes out as the Stage Manager, she tells us the name of the play and the name of the town Grover's Corner, New Hampshire and the date, May 1, 1901.
But the Stage Manager, who is our most trusted friend, or aunt, or sister, is timeless. As she leads us on a tour of the town from Main Street to Polish Town, to the churches, to the back doors, to the cemetery, where the earliest graves are marked 1670 we realize she is telling about people we are seeing in 1901, but whose deaths she has already seen.
The truths of this story are universal and timeless.
Befera is brilliant in the role, delivering most of the play's lines and yet serving as our Everyman. She is us, friendly and warm, and limning the stories of the townspeople.
And their deaths, such as men and boys who liked that name the United States of America even though they'd never seen more than 50 miles of it, and who went off to fight and die in the Civil War, and are now buried in the Grover's Corner cemetery.
The cast around the Stage Manager features some excellent performers and couple who, on opening night anyway, weren't really ready for prime time. That's the way it goes, sometimes, in Foothill shows, which tend to be excellent, but still must be populated, at least in part, by inexperienced students.
Samantha Rose is excellent as Emily Webb, whom we follow from her teen years to her grave. She's the smartest girl in school, and "pretty enough for all normal purposes," as her mother tells her.
Also very appealing is Peter Spoelstra as George Gibbs, who thinks Emily is more than pretty enough, for all purposes.
That modest set is cleverly used: Rose picks up a chair and puts it on the table, then climbs up to sit on it, and voilà, Emily is in her second-floor bedroom, able to help George, window to neighboring window, with his algebra.
The parents of these eventual lovers are all finely played: Anthony Silk as Dr. Gibbs, Dee Baily as Mrs. Gibbs, Edie Dwan and Mrs. Webb, and Dill Dwan and Mr. Webbs.
I was tickled, on opening night, to see Befera, as Stage Manager, sporting a "Hamilton" cap.
Abby Eklund has one of the strongest, yet shortest performances, as Jo Crowell; as a young paperboy, she is fully invested in her role, even as we hear from Stage Manager that "he" will die in the Great War. If she continues in theater, we can expect strong performances from her.
Sam Woodbury is quite good in his short performance as Howie Newsome, the dairy deliveryman.
The cast is rounded out with mostly good performances. I don't want to name names of actors I thought weren't really ready, because at least they were out there, doing it, delivering lines. Maybe they will keep at it, and improve.
Again, for the most part, there is not much in the way of stage furniture or props. The actors, dressed in clothes by costume designer Chiara Cola that seem appropriate to 1901, mime the cooking of bacon, the washing of dishes and the tugging of the reins of a draft horse.
Until almost all the way through the third act, when something happens that is so effective and so moving that I don't want to describe it here. It was a powerful surprise for me, and added greatly to an excellent scene very well performed by Rose. Kudos to McLeod, who is also scenic designer for this show.
I regret being so late to publish this review. I apologize to Foothill and to potential audience members. The show runs through November 20 I urge y'll to go see it.
Email John Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org