Guest Review by Jessica Muller
Wednesday, September 28, 2011. 3:23 PM
The Players Club of Swarthmore recently kicked off its 101st season of community theater and volunteer performing arts with its production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.
The Players Club is an excellent venue to catch a show, and productions here are often first-rate with talented and eager actors, ages 8 to 80.
This was this reviewer’s first time seeing Our Town, a story that could take place in any small town, in Anywhere USA. This small town has an idyllic population of 2,642 (with the birth of twins to up the number) and doesn’t have the distractions of today’s busy society, given that this is Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in the early 1900s. Our narrator sets the scene for the audience, explaining that the town is an ordinary one, with ordinary people, living the life that is deemed “regular” or “normal,” to the point of being borderline banal.
People in this town appreciate the plain things like birds chirping, the change of seasons, the sun shining, and the regularity of life there. There is even a town drunk, who is faithfully protected and accepted by townsfolk, perhaps reminding us all to “live and let live” in the name of preserving the community that makes up Grover’s Corners.
But beware of complacency and just simply living life. Society dictates stages in life for us humans: when to get married, when to have kids, the natural order of things. The narrator-turned-minister claims about only 1 in 1,000 marriages are actually interesting. Maybe the rest are just of convenience, obligation, or even arrangement.
Only in the last act do we grasp the true impact of this innocuous story. As the dead souls lay peacefully in the cemetery for eternity, only they can remark on the cavalier attitude of the living.
Wilder urges us to see, feel, and experience every little but important moment in our own lives, before it is too late. What seems so big and important really is, in the big picture, not. As one character remarks, life is both awful and wonderful – both are part of living – except the living don’t seem to appreciate that basic sentiment.
Do humans realize life and each moment they live it? Probably not. Some feel we go through life in ignorance and blindness. Wilder wants us to notice life, the beautiful world we live in, and all of the nuances that go along with that – before it completely passes us by.
It’s a timely reminder for all ages, especially ours, with all of our technology, media, video games, instant information. How simple and beautiful life can be. Just try it.