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I first read "Our Town" in tenth grade. I knew there was something
about it, but I couldn't understand, see, or find it. I made it my
to find out.
Over the years, I have seen literally hundreds of productions of "Our Town," always in hopes of discovering the beauty that it possesses...somewhere.
And here it is. Finally.
This very contemporary, very recent production of "Our Town" is a stunning revisualization of this, Thornton Wilder's greatest work.
The thematic material of "Our Town" is often misunderstood as a look at the ordinariness of daily life and how tedious the mundane is, but this is a short-sighted claim to Wilder's writing, as he provides much more depth and texture than that.
It is biting yet sweet. It is sarcastic yet humbly honest. It is contemporary yet nostalgiac. In "Our Town," life is beautifully tragic, woefully joyous, and endearingly boring.
The acting here is top-notch, as the starring roles are filled by such seasoned veterans as Paul Newman, Jayne Atkinson, and more. Newman especially shines as one who is amused, terrified, and bored with this small provincial place over which he seems to be a kind of non-active deity. Emily's final farewell to Grover's Corners is especially beautiful.
The real wonder of this production is that it is apparent that the production team pulled together to create a solid, collaberative, cohesive piece of theatre that would reach people of all ages, colors, and creeds. All aspects of the production have come together beautifully to create this amazingly convincing work of theatre.
Furthermore, this televised version is a wonderfully rendering of the original stage production. The camera never feels obtrusive, it never feels out of place or foreign. We feel like the audience, not like the camera. We are being led on a tour.
Perhaps it is Thornton's (and the Stage Manager's) brilliant tour-guide-like presentation that makes this work so superbly on camera as well as stage.
All in all, this mounting of "Our Town" surely does Thornton Wilder justice, as it brilliantly achieves what all great theatre should aspire to do: it emotes; it teaches; it explains; it examines; and it humanizes. Do not miss this for anything.
I don't think I've ever seen a production of this play that did not
bring tears to my eyes in the last act. It is simply a powerful work
and hard even for amateur players to fail in. This production follows
true to form. Paul Newman is wonderful as the Stage Manager. He plays
the part with such ease and conviction that one forgets all about the
blue-eyed heartthrob he once was and concentrates solely on an actor at
the top of his form.
I also think Maggie Lacey is very fine as Emily. She plays the young woman as breathless, open-eyed, innocent, and just darn good. That is the way Emily is supposed to be played, of course, but Ms. Lacey does it exceptionally well. (How stupid it is to think that goodness is dull!) The actor who plays George (Ben Fox, I believe) is less appealing, and comes across at times as a near-hayseed. Fox is successful at playing George's self-doubts, but not his strength.
I have stayed away from the Hollywood version of the play, the one starring William Holden, because I have heard that the ending in the graveyard is changed, that it is treated as a dream. It's hard to believe that anyone would touch the text of Thornton Wilder's play, but a change of that magnitude would certainly take away much of the play's power.
All in all, this is a likable production.
I've seen 'Our Town' on stage several times, dating back 50-some years
my small high school. I've seen it once on the small screen with Hal
Holbrook, and including (I believe) John Houseman. But this is the best I
have seen, and Paul Newman deserves a majority of the credit for this.
about my age and I have watched him turn from the handsome, virile, often
rebellious leading man to an old character actor. But this time he owns
stage. In live stage, I have never seen facial expression used really
effectively: I've always been too far away from the actors. I don't
Holbrook doing much in this area: I recall a rather straight narrative
style that time. Newman is extraordinary. The expressions and the timing
added a quality I don't ever recall seeing. The camera closed in
appropriately and effectively. And for the first time I saw the Stage
Manager turn from the simple travelogue narrator he appears at the opening
to an identity at the closing moments I had never recognized before.
(I'm trying to be cautious and not spoil the end. Is it possible to spoil it? Hasn't everyone who enjoys American stage already seen 'Our Town', like me, enough times they can almost speak the dialogue of that final scene along with the characters?)
The play is so familiar that the sparse set comes naturally. This production actually used an item or two that I don't recall from earlier ones, but it still seems right. I was much impressed by the lighting, pulling the action up out of the overall darkness. Some things worked less well, I thought. George and Emily aged, and this was harder to do when the camera could zoom in and show their faces. With no makeup changes, they were left with dialogue and voice to convince the viewer, as I didn't feel movements showed the aging effectively. The same applied to the two sets of parents. Nonetheless, when Emily held the stage in the last scene, she still made it one of the most moving moments in theater.
I am intrigued by the critical response to 'Our Town'. Early reviews seem to be enthusiastic, but some critics since seem to consider it too light, too trivial, to be listed among the great ones like Williams's and Miller's works. But aren't we talking here about the universal themes of life? Isn't that serious enough?
Find a copy of it if you can. It's one of Paul Newman's great moments.
I've seen and read "Our Town" so many times that I thought to myself, "Why bother with this one?" It turned out that this is by far the best version of "Our Town" I've ever seen. Paul Newman was a magnificent stage manager. Maggie Lacey and Ben Fox were superb as Emily and George; I doubt that anyone's ever played them better. The ending was so movingly staged and acted that I was reduced to a blubbering idiot with tears rolling down my face. This is as good as it gets for "Our Town," and at last I understand why it's a classic.
mar this adaptation of the great Thornton Wilder play about mutability
one man (town's) place in the universe. Paul Newman, Jane Curtin, and
Atkinson fare best. Jeffrey DeMunn is a little too "actorish," and the
leads lack spark and pale when compared to the luminous performance of
William Holden and Martha Scott in the 1940 film. Not bad, but not great
either. No two accents are alike (considering this is a
New England town)---even among families. If you can't do accents, why
In today's world of revivals and remakes being termed "reinventions" it's a pleasure to see a simple, standard production of a simple, standard play. No rewriting anything that may be offensive, no added music, no grand ideas to do it with overblown scenic, set dressing or prop design. Our Town well known to many since it is performed by school and community theatres around the country and most know the story of the small town of Grovers Cornder,NH at dawn of the 20th century. This production, filmed from the Broadway production earlier this season boasts an impressive cast-Paul Newman as the narrating Stage Manager is subtle yet commanding. Frank Converse,Jayne Atkinson, Jeffrey DeMunn, and Jane Curtin as the four parents show the love they have for their children. Broadway vets Stephen Spinella and Mia Dillon show us the good and bad in all the townfolk. Maggie Lacey and Ben Fox are wonderful as the grow and age as the young lovers. Light and dark come from each performer as they go through the paces of this old play.
A solid production of this chestnut. Nothing radical or edgy, but for a
play like this, who wants edgy? The storyline accounts for 90% of the
value, so the acting and production values shouldn't be over-analyzed.
This is one of my all-time favorite plays, and I found this production more than satisfactory.
There are only three other versions of "Our Town" available on VHS/DVD, and all have drawbacks (the 1940 version is fuzzy, the 1989 version is overpriced, and the 1977 version is ho-hum). Given the dearth of copies available on VHS or DVD, this new version is a welcome addition to "Our Town" fans.
Paul Newmann gives a _great_ performance as the narrator, and the rest of the cast is fine, too. I would have cast younger actors for Emily and George.
This is a filmed version of the stage play, on stage. There is no audience, and the camera work is fantastic: this was produced by Exxon/Mobile for Masterpiece Theater, and they spared no expense.
I highly recommend it!
As someone who loved the William Holden version, and I have also acted in a community theatre version of this (as the "Stage Manager" character)... so I think I can give a valid point of view on this film. It is one of the best stage versions that I have ever seen. A very interesting way to do it with minimalist props and scenery compared to the traditional "dark stage and spotlight version". I can not wait for it to be released on DVD, and since it is a Showtime Networks and PBS Masterpiece Theatre co-production, I know it is only a matter of time before it is released. This is one DVD that will have a prized position in my DVD collection.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Probably the most revived play not written by Tennessee Williams, "Our
Town" is more than just a look at Grover's Corners New Hampshire, the
type of place that "King's Row" informed us was the ideal American
community and a great place to raise your children. Unlike that Mid
Western town with its share of scandal, "Our Town" is an uneventful
place where everybody leads a routine life; Like Grand Hotel, People
come and go, but nothing ever happens. The only difference, is that
when they go, its off to college, and afterwards, they are back in
Grover's Corners, probably living in the house they grew up in, left to
them (or to be left to them) by their parents. The basic story is
almost missing a plot line; Next door neighbors are not surprised when
their children grow up together, fall in love, and marry.
What happens, however, is more than just that, and it is in the second act where that all comes out. Emily, the bride, has died in childbirth, and now, she has joined all the rest of deceased Grovers Corners residents. Desperate to get back, she makes the mistake of wanting to live one day over-a birthday 15 years before. Going back, she learns, is not always wise.
There is something haunting in this production based upon the Westport Community Playhouse production produced by Joanne Woodward. Her husband Paul Newman has the leading role of the stage manager, a narrator who appears to know something about each and every resident of the community and their family. Who he is really is never fully explained, but there are hints that he himself is a long deceased ghost who has watched the living from beyond and is the guiding spirit for the newly deceased. The stage with only a few exceptions is bare, and the actors rely on little props. The actors (with the exception of Jane Curtin as Emily's mother) are all unfamiliar to even the most devoted of Broadway theatre goers, and that gives this production a freshness and a feeling of being a stranger in a new community.
If you grew up in a small town, you will find every archetype here for every different kind of character. You know them: you know exactly what time they will be sitting out on their porch, what pew they will be sitting in at church, and what restaurant they will go to for breakfast after service is over. When they don't show up for church, you know that someone will be going to check on them, especially if they are elderly. "Our Town" is filled with that kind of atmosphere, and it also questions humanity on its ability to handle change or trying a different routine. The final scene where Emily meets up with the deceased townspeople is haunting, because it is all so familiar, yet so different. The legendary Newman gives an authoritative performance that holds the play together like glue, and it is wonderful that the production was released on video for those unlucky in trying to get a ticket (like myself) to get the chance to see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
41 years ago, in 1967, I was involved in a production of "Our Town" at my high school. I was a "student director" which meant I helped do all the menial work that the director didn't want to do. (That's a whole 'nother story).I also played one of the "men in the audience" and can still recite my lines to this day. I remember loving this play and have remembered with great memories the time we spent doing this. I have seen a few live versions of it over the years and remember seeing another filmed version with, I think, Eric Stoltz. I watched this tonight, borrowed from county library, and being damned near 60 years old now, memories of being involved in this play sort of flooded back over me. It's only now that I understood the whole speech that Emily gives in the cemetery (I don't think that's a spoiler?) and how it applies to life as we live it. The casting here was stellar, from Paul Newman on down; some of them as someone said earlier a little "actory" but after all it is a filmed version of a stage play. I loved this and highly recommend it.
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