This is your life — don’t miss it! That’s the quintessential message in Thornton Wilder’s timeless classic, “Our Town.” The play celebrates the passages of life in three acts, representing birth and childhood, love and marriage and old age and death. Since its opening in 1938, “Our Town” has become the most produced play in American history. Although it explores the experience of a certain town, Grover’s Corners, and a specific time in American history, it is about all towns and time, itself. The audience leaves the theater feeling uplifted by a sense of gratitude that’s oh-so-easy to forget as they go about their daily lives.
Murray Chase has directed this Venice Theatre Stage II production with the delicacy and simplicity that the heart-tugging, eternal drama deserves. It’s done in the round, with minimal set and staging. The characters mime their daily activities and the story is narrated by the stage manager, played with perfect equanimity by Daniel Greene, who subtly balances between a serenely neutral tone and a mildly chiding one.
There are many folksy, yet universal characters, all played wonderfully by a splendid cast. Among them, Kenzie Balliet stands out with her heartfelt performance as Emily Webb, a young woman whom we witness in all three stages of her life. Her mother, Mrs. Webb, is most convincing played by Laurie Colton. Other central characters marvelously played include Dr. Gibbs by Greg Courter; Mrs. Gibbs by Kristi Hibschman; Rebecca Gibbs by Grace Wickerson; Wally Webb by Morgan Guin; George Gibbs by Zachary Evanicki; Howie Newsome by Travis Rose; Professor Willard by Den Nee; Mr. Webb by Steve Horowitz; and Joe Crowell by Tristan Guin. Supporting players include Alexandra Clemens, Mare Klein, Neil Levine, Maureen Young, Bill Atz and Timothy Polk.
Costume designer Stephanie Gift provides period-correct costume designs. Donna Buckalter, scenic designer, has created a charming mural on three walls of the theater. Dorian Boyd provides sound design; Christopher A.D. Parrish provides lighting design, and Candace Artim is stage manager. The production also boasts an enormous crew of volunteers.
“Our Town” runs through March 30, at Venice Theatre. For more information, call 488-1115.