Thursday, April 02, 2009

In our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying

Last night I went to see Thornton Wilder's classic Our Town, produced by Chicago's famous Lookingglass Theatre Company. Our Town is one of my favorite plays; I think it is profound, moving, and thought-provoking. Some lesser folks don't get it. They are lesser folks.

I try not to be a person given to being star-struck, but one reason I was excited to see the play was that the lead character of George was being played by David Schwimmer, who started at this theater. I am a huge Friends fan, and though I do not think that his celebrity would actually add to the profundity of the play, I just thought it would be cool, especially because the performance was in a black box theater, and I was in the front row, which would mean that the actors would be a couple of feet away. Anyway, it would have added to the fun . . .

However . . . the character of George was played last night by Schwimmer's understudy. That wall of disappointment hit hard, especially since all reviews had raved about Schwimmer's performance.

However . . . the understudy did a great job. In fact, the whole play was wonderful, and as I always am, I was powerfully moved by this wonderul piece of American brilliance. One amazing aspect of the production was the set. While anyone who knows Our Town understands that the play utilizes no set and no props, this production took this idea to another level. Hanging from the ceiling of the theater were all the props and sets that should have been. In other words, the ceiling was populated by chairs, dressers, tables, doors, lamps, and yes, coffins. Such a small touch made a huge difference in the power fo the play.

Another reason I loved seeing this performance was that it made me nostalgic. My final year at BHS represented the pinnacle of my play-directing career, and the acting that I witnessed from high school students blew me away. Last night as I watched professional actors tackle this most complicated of dramatic literature, I thought that many of the performances from the BHS production were as good if not better than the Lookingglass production. And the Lookingglass production was excellent.

But I realized the profound talent that I had the privilege to direct when I worked in Brainerd, and so I felt reminiscent and proud.


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