By using Wilder’s original script, instead of the more commonly used Broadway version, Gelblum hopes to deliver the playwright’s poignant message about appreciating life, free of the saccharin overtones often associated with this play.
“I think it has that reputation because of the small-town characters, the folksiness of it, and, perhaps most of all, because it is done frequently by high schools,” Gelblum said.
“(Our) production retains Wilder’s biting commentary on human foibles, as well as his powerful insights into the human condition, juxtaposed with his great compassion and gentle humor.”
The story seems almost quaintly simple, following the lives of Grover’s Corners’ residents and in particular, teenagers Emily Webb (Emily Olsen of Ben Lomond) and George Gibbs (Spencer Bullock of Felton). The audience watches as its residents live ordinary lives: They age, marry, die and mow the lawn in between. They sit among the real audience members, and some of them even rise from the dead.
No, Wilder wasn’t predicting the latest zombie trend when he wrote “Our Town” in the 1930s. But he was adamant that no pretense be made that this play about real life was, in fact, real life. To that end, he wrote his play without scenery and with minimal sets. He had actors mime their props. Most unconventional of all is the character of the Stage Manager — played here by theater veteran and Soquel resident Rita Wadsworth — who directly tells the audience they are watching a play about life in a fictitious New Hampshire town. Part narrator and part commentator, the Stage Manager frequently talks to the audience, breaking the sacred but illusory “fourth wall” that normally separates the dual worlds of audience and players.
“It was extremely unusual for its day,” Gelblum said. “Wilder does not ask the audience to suspend disbelief.”
Instead, Wilder asks the audience to not forget just how ephemeral life is and to realize that our most ordinary daily activities and interactions are as worthy of recognition as our most dramatic achievements, failures and relationships.
Given that MCT’s production runs during the holiday season, those sentiments may be especially timely. Gelblum said that, like the message within it, “Our Town” is for everyone.
“If we do it right, everyone will be able to relate aspects of the play to their own lives, will see their lives in the play, and will laugh and cry,” she said.
“Our Town” will play at Ben Lomond’s Park Hall from Dec. 2 to 18. Special discount ticket prices — $15 general admission, $12 seniors and students — are available for the opening weekend only.
For information: www.mctshows.org
MCT’s “Our Town”
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2 through 18
Where: Park Hall, 9400 Mill St., in Ben Lomond
Cost: $18 general, $15 students and seniors