The curtain rises on a hushed theater. The stage reveals no props. This will be the setting for three marvelous acts. You will be reminded that what it means to be human remains ever constant.
Our Town, Thorton Wilder’s timeless treatise on the human experience, arrived at Portland Center Stage’s Gerding Theater for a run that is sure to be unforgettable, and just in time to celebrate their 10th season at the Armory. This instant classic not only takes an unflinching look at human nature, but it lays the theater bare with a minimalism that packs a punch. With no set pieces or major props, the actors are forced to mime their duties. The only thing on display is their sheer skill.
The play takes place at the dawn of the 20th Century, but the material is as relevant as ever. Wilder uses a stage manager, played by veteran stage actor Shawn Fagan, to narrate the action. You’ll find him interrupting characters, foreshadowing, and asking you to recall special moments in your life that relates to what is happening on stage, which won’t be hard to do.
Our Town takes place in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, but it just as easily could be Anytown, America. And although it may be over a hundred years ago, the inhabitants struggle with many of the same things we do today, as Fagan explains.
“Regardless of how circumstances change over time, and all the details of the historical period, on a fundamental level, human beings have not changed,” he says. “Wherever you are, in whatever context, people are still trying to do the same things. Trying to figure out how to make a living, figure out how to be in relationships, and negotiate their family units. That has nothing to do with the time, place or country, really.”
With an all-star cast of seasoned actors, Our Town projects a presence that will leave you forgetting it’s over two hours long. What it lacks in props and staging, it makes up for in sheer acting skill. New York-based actress Gina Daniels, who plays Mrs. Gibbs, brings seven seasons of experience working in the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival to the table, and couldn’t be happier about it.
“I’m so excited!” She exclaims. “I’m delighted to be in Portland working with the fabulous artists that are in the Portland area, and to have this night – it’s just so delightful to me. I’m thrilled to be here.”
Spend some time checking out Portland Center Stage’s production of Our Town and you’ll be thrilled to be there, too. After all, as Daniels aptly puts it, “in a thousand years, this play will still be relevant.”
Our Town runs through October 11th on the U.S. Bank Main Stage. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (excluding September 27, 29 and October 11); 2:00 p.m. matinees on select Saturdays and Sundays; and matinees at noon on select Thursdays.
Regular tickets are $37 and are on sale now. They can be purchased at www.pcs.org, 503.445.3700 or in person at the Gerding Theater at the Armory box office, 128 NW Eleventh Avenue.