Will "Our Town" just be a star turn for Friends's David Schwimmer, who returns to his Lookingglass roots after years of commercial success, or will this, like so many of the company's productions, be full of circus arts and acrobatic physicality?
Fortunately, we can answer "no" to both—this is a simple, faithful version of "Our Town." Little here will surprise those with a passing knowledge of the play, aside from its brevity (speedy pacing keeps it to two hours) and John Musial’s extraordinary set, which features chairs, dresses and even a piano hung from the ceiling.
The story is familiar by now. Stage Manager, played by a warm and winning Joey Slotnick, guides the audience through daily life, love, marriage and death in the small New Hampshire town of Grovers’ Corners, focusing on the lives of next-door neighbors and eventual spouses George Gibbs (Schwimmer) and Emily Webb (Laura Eason) and their families. Directors Anna D. Shapiro and Jessica Thebus and the 13-member cast tell the story simply, keeping the emotional temperature low. The play is little more than a group of actors—friends and 20-year-plus collaborators of the same age—telling a story. They make no attempt to imitate the ages of the characters, nobody puts on a New Hampshire accent to fit the setting, and Janice Pytel’s costumes merely suggest the period.
The approach has drawbacks. The show doesn’t have enough theatrical excitement, and the generally reflective mood made the intensely emotional moments in the third act feel like they came from nowhere. The production is not thrilling or devastating, but it is quietly moving—and that’s a genuine achievement.