Our Town by Friends Select School in Philadelphia, PA
November 20, 2018
Review submitted by Rachel Tierney of Unionville High School
Although life may seem uneventfully simple in a small town, diving into the lives of its people unearths a whole new understanding of what it means to savor every moment of life. In Friend Select’s production of Our Town, a tale of trials and tribulations presents itself through all phases of life, love, and death.
Our Town recounts the story of the quaint Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire through the lives of its citizens from 1901 to 1913. Written by Thornton Wilder, Our Town follows the tale of two young people, Emily Webb and George Gibbs, as they mature and eventually fall in love, along with the intertwining accounts of their families and fellow citizens. As the Stage Manager narrates, the town comes to life with the breath of its people and their endeavors.
Actors and actresses lit up the stage with every turn, pantomiming almost all of their actions. The lack of props and set created an atmosphere with few distractions, allowing the audience to truly dive into the characters and their developing stories. As the fourth wall is continually broken, the actors bridge the gap between theatre and reality. With the incredible sound, lighting, costumes, and set, the productional quality of this show made a delightful performance in every aspect.
At the heart of the production were the sweet love-birds themselves: Emily Webb (Sara Kelley) and George Gibbs (Yannick Haynes). The two actors seamlessly portrayed their challenging transition from wonderful, adolescent awkwardness to a refreshing story of love and loss in an utterly convincing manner. Further driving this relationship along was the witty, well-spoken Stage Manager (Claire McHarg). McHarg was responsible for narrating every little detail the audience wasn’t able to experience throughout the twelve-year period, and she did so with humor and liveliness that flawlessly tied together every piece of the characters’ puzzling lives.
Each supporting character brought a unique perspective to the stage. Most notably was Mrs. Gibbs (Charlotte Kaplan) who portrayed the weariness and compassion of an overworked mother with eloquence and grace. Her transition from an active, animated woman to a monotoned ghost in death was chillingly phenomenal. Other memorable performances included the physical and vocal acting of Mr. Webb (Avery Johnson) who created a delightfully humorous atmosphere, as well as Rebecca Gibbs (Poli Sotnik-Platt) who lovingly played the nagging younger sister figure every audience finds endearing.
Technically, the production was stunning. Lights and sound (by Kitty Holder) worked together in perfect harmony, never missing a beat. Although there were a few mic issues towards the beginning, the crew quickly overcame them in an overall outstanding performance.
Our Town is meant to examine the importance of companionship and living “two-by-two,” and Friends Select did not disappoint.
Review submitted by Meghan McCloskey of Unionville High School
Through brilliant portrayals of comedy, romance, and tragedy, Friends Select School’s production of Our Town was, for the most part, incredibly entertaining.
Written by Thornton Wilder in 1938, Our Town transports audiences to the fictional town of Grover’s Corners. The Stage Manager makes the story unfold by frequently breaking the fourth wall to bridge the gap between reality and fiction, clarify the plot, and engulf the audience into the charming and timeless town. As the tragic love story of Emily Webb and George Gibb plays out, the production depicts the lives of the unique townspeople and tells the tale of love, loyalty, and lost time.
The show is undoubtedly a hefty challenge; however, it is a challenge that Friends Select School rose to admirably. The cast and crew’s portrayal of Grover’s Corners was immensely successful.
Sara Kelley was flawlessly convincing as the love-stricken Emily Webb. Her interpretation of a woman who dies in a state of desperation for more time with her family was nothing short of breathtaking. Performing beside her in an equally jaw-dropping manner was Yannick Haynes. He played George Gibbs, Emily Webb’s love interest, with hilarious accuracy. The duo beautifully expressed the realistic and awkward anxieties that come with young love and the heartbreaking and painful nostalgia that follow the death of a loved one.
Charlotte Kaplan’s rendition of Mrs. Gibbs was exceptionally believable. Her natural and genuine acting made her character come to life and further enhanced the town Grover’s Corners. Additionally, Avery Johnson commendably combined humor and heart in his performance as Mr. Webb. His calm demeanor and precise comedic timing were highlights of the show. While these actors performed with coherence and eloquence.
A notable achievement of the evening was Kitty Holder’s impeccable sound. Every sound effect was timed to perfection, and there was only one microphone error throughout the entire production. The sets were minimalistic and beautiful, and the actors mimed some set pieces that otherwise would have made the stage look busy and crowded. Costumes, hair, and makeup were authentic and excellently reflected the simplistic aura of the fictional town. Every single technical aspect of the show was outstanding.
Overall, Friends Select School’s production of Our Town jaw-droppingly blended feelings of community, joy, and heartbreak. After exceptional performances, the cast and crew did an incredible job conveying the moral of the story: that there is an exceptional amount of beauty even in the days that may seem insignificant.