Our Town comes to PCC – a review
by Lex Rule
The opening night of PCC Sylvania’s production of Our Town was one to remember. Playwright Thornton Wilder dreamt up this world over 80 years ago but this cast, crew, and director, Jonathan Walters, proved the script to be timeless and offered modern viewers an accessible, enjoyable and insightful experience.
As soon as the lights dim, the audience is transported from Portland Community College to the small town of Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire. A single white curtain helps create the intimate space that the audience and actors share onstage. Besides a handful of chairs, ladders, a tabletop, and beautiful, projected images of hills and skies that change color to portray what time of day it is, the stage remains mostly bare, leaving the rest up to suspension of disbelief.
Luckily, impressive pantomiming and perfectly-timed live sound effects make it easy to imagine and believe what isn’t there, while the script’s self-awareness and actors’ comedic timing cleverly embrace what is. Act One’s stage manager, played by TJ Pendarvis, receives laughter from the audience as a trellis is added to the stage: “There’s some scenery for those who think they have to have scenery.”
All of this, paired with a cast who completely disappear into their characters, produce the show’s biggest win: making the audience feel a part of something special—life itself.
We watch Emily Webb (Sophia Ekdahl) and her neighbor, George Gibbs (Levi Schmid) grow up, fall in love, get married and finally, experience tragedy together. It’s nearly impossible not to tear up in the final act, where Ekdahl and Schmid deliver believable and heart wrenching reactions to the passing of time and loved ones. “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” Ekdahl cries out, inspiring viewers to reflect on their own tendencies.
In the final minutes of the show, the line between the characters’ town and our town becomes especially blurry. The entire cast fills the now completely stripped stage one last time, and all that’s left are people, who look a lot like those we know and love ourselves—and a reminder that the tiny moments we share with them are just as meaningful as the big ones.