Theater & Performing Arts

Our Town

When: Thursdays-Sundays. Continues through Jan. 25 2015

There are lots of reasons why Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 production Our Town, which takes place in turn-of-the-century New England, might resist modern adaptations: It’s hella folksy, the dialogue seems like it was lifted right out of a Leave It To Beaver episode, and except for one drunk choir director (Christopher W. White, a real highlight), everyone seems to be just about the down-rightest folk you’ll ever meet, by golly. All these elements make for great insurance infomercials, but great theater? And yet, and yet! Shotgun’s cast and crew pull it off. The plot involves the goings-on of townsfolk in Grover’s Corner, with two families at its center: The Gibbs and the Webbs. Steering the action of the play is a Stage Manager (the delightful Madeline H.D. Brown), who acts as narrator, interacts with the audience, and fills several small roles throughout. With Our Town, Wilder — who once lived in Berkeley — set out to change the conventions of theater in his time, which is why he demanded Our Town be free of a set and scenery, and involve lots of fourth-wall breakage. The play’s unconventional setup allows for a rare glimpse into the raw hearts and minds of ordinary people, and in the end, provides a rumination on the themes that we find most humbling and terrifying — life, death, and love. But also, as Wilder put it, “It is an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life.”

Anna Pulley

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