Last Tuesday's performance of "Our Town" by the Theatre Arts department was a good example of how even the simplest play can come alive through the enthusiasm of the players.
The production is the story of small town life at the turn of the century. A stage manager, played by Steve Porter, shows us vignettes from the people's lives as they travel the road from childhood to marriage to death. Each of his stops along the road tells us something about small town attitudes and the way they haveaffected our modern thinking.
Porter's portrayal of the stage manager can only be called excellent. His dress, mannerisms, and facial expressions seem so natural that it is easy to forget he is a character in a play. If believably is the goal of an actor. Porter certainly has achieved his goal.
Even when he stepped to the side of the stage to let the townspeople perform, it was hard to ignore his comfortable slouch and knowing grin. One of the light spots in the play was Porter's portrayal of the
drugstore soda jerk. His wheezy of Porter's ability to develop subtle mannerisms into a natural part of the character.
As stage manager, Porter introduced town leaders such as a doctor, an editor, and the university professor. One of the noticeable problems in FC's production was the make-up on Professor 'Willard, played by Kevin Coots. His scraggly beard looked okay, but the bags under his eyes looked more like tumors than folds of skin. The makeup distracted from his stilted walk and befuddled facial expression.
A developing romance between two of Grovers Corner's inhabitantsis used to illustrate the relationship between love, marriage, and eventually death. John Barnett does a fine job as George Gibbs, but his wife as played by Lana J. Morton is positively the best performance of any of the town's characters. Morton ranks with Porter when it comes to believably. She fidgets appropriately when being wooed by George, yet still seems natural as the "prissy miss," the smartest girl to have graduated from the local high school. Another standout in the cast was Ransom Caldwell as the town drunk, Simon Stimson. It's each to overdo a drunk act, but Caldwell hiccuped and slurred his words at just the right moment. He had the audience waiting for his every word.
"Our Town" is presented with a minimum of props. Two tables and a couple of chairs give the illusion of a kitchen. Children leaning over the top step of a ladder gives the impression of gazing through an upstairs window at the moon. Mothers pour imaginary coffee from non-existent pots into invisible cups.
As the play progresses, it becomes obvious that Wilder is telling us much more than a simple story of life in Grovers Corner, We, as characters on Wilder's stage of life, never seem to notice how precious time and life really are. We never notice life slipping slowly away. Like one of the players said Tuesday evening, "That's all human beings are - just blind people."
The Theatre Arts department will conclude its series of performances tonight at 8 p.m. in the Campus Theatre.