— Nothing much happens in Grover’s Corners. Or does it?
That has always been the beauty of Thornton Wilder’s classic 1938 play, Our Town, currently being presented by the Stolen Shakespeare Guild at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Every audience that has ever seen this quick overview of life, love and death in a sleepy New England hamlet in the first two decades of the last century has been able to reflect on how different, and how similar, their lives are compared to those of Wilder’s characters.
This production, which is part of Stolen Shakespeare’s ongoing series featuring Pulitzer Prize winning dramas, is a warm and respectful treatment of the this always-engaging play that feels appropriately home-grown.
Taking the role of the Stage Manager is veteran thespian Delmar H. Dolbier, who first played that role 54 years ago. As the senior member of this cast, his performance resonates with life experience. Like his character, Dolbier has likely seen a lot of marriages, births and funerals. So when he describes those events to us (or welcomes us to them), it has a ring of authenticity.
Leading a strong cast are Nick Pinelli as George Gibbs and Bridie Marie Corbett as Emily Webb, the couple we follow from the sunny moments of first love to the rainy darkness of the town cemetery. While both young performers are still developing their skills in certain ways, it is exciting to watch them because their performances glow with the promise of what they might do with future roles.
The rest of the large cast also takes care of business nicely. Familiar professional actor Kim Titus, as George’s father, Dr. Gibbs, and Janette Oswald, as Emily’s mother, Myrtle Webb, especially standout.
The general staging of the work, by director Nathan Autrey, succeeds by not trying to reinvent the wheel. He sticks to the traditional approaches of using a bare stage with just a couple of ladders and a few chairs, and having the actors pantomime all their props. He moves the characters well and also does a good job of modulating the show’s pace to suit its moments.
There is one little directorial touch that deserves points for effort but, unfortunately, does not work. Most of the sound effects are created live in areas just off stage, beside and behind where the audience is seated. It is clever idea, but it turns out to be more of a distraction than an enhancement.
But, on the whole, this is a solid presentation of a timeless work. Stolen Shakespeare deserves out thanks for this production, and for giving us one these important, and highly entertaining, classic American plays each season.
Through April 26
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy St.
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Saturdays and April 26