Our Town at Syracuse Stage

Through April 16
Emily Webb and George Gibbs-characters in "Our Town"
Emily Webb and George Gibbs-characters in "Our Town"(Photos by Michael Davis)
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 10:52 AM EDT
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There are very few plays that can be considered American Classics; perhaps The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Death of a Salesman and The Little Foxes.  Plays, despite being from another era, manage to be just as relevant or relatable today as they were when they were first produced. But none compares with the uncanny eternal timeliness of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.  The perennial high school and community favorite has been produced so often that we take its emotional impact and resonance for granted.

Syracuse Stage artistic director Robert Hupp handedly helms the play, fully understanding that the power is derived from its deceptive simplicity. A few touches of modernization, like the stage manager’s use of a smart phone enhance the universality of the story and never appear as fussy anachronisms. Noted television actor Jim True-Frost is a modern, relaxed Stage Manager-a character that is everything from a voice for God, a town crier, a narrator to a regular townsfolk. True-Frost’s character is relaxed and friendly, like a friend you pass on a Sunday jog. Usually played more like a wise uncle or a authoritative observer, his interpretation is interesting, if a bit risky. His modern costume contrasted with the period outfits of the remaining cast contribute to the timelessness themes of the play.

The diversity in the casting aids the play’s themes of universal humanity, “we are all in the same boat.” The power of the play comes in the authenticity of the moments.  These episodic vignettes create an escalation of emotional involvement that sneaks up on the audience.  For these to work, the individual performances must be authentic and accessible.  This is best illuminated here with the two great performances of Diego Echeverria De Cordova who plays George Gibbs and Magdaliz Rivera who plays Emily Webb. As the teenage neighbors that fall in love as they moon for each other through their bedroom windows, their chemistry and tenderness resonate, perfectly underscoring the author’s themes of “enjoy the present”

Wilder remains one of American’s most celebrated man of letters, winning three Pulitzer Prizes, two for drama and one for fiction-a feat still not duplicated to this day.  He is often labeled an intellectual or an optimist, but in truth even though he is emotionally accessible, he remains as equally as elusive.

At Syracuse Stage through April 16