Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Actors’ Co-op, David Schall Theatre
Through Oct. 23
It’s been nearly eighty years since Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning paean to small town America was first performed, yet it still retains a mysterious charm. Perhaps it’s the play’s evocation of a less complicated time and place, or maybe it’s Wilder’s simple exploration of what is common and universal in the human condition.
The play is about life, love and death in the idyllic New Hampshire town of Grover’s Corner in the early 1900s, and is divided into three segments, titled: Daily Life, Love and Marriage and Death. In the first, we are introduced to the town and its inhabitants; in the second, we witness the burgeoning love and nuptials of two of the town’s young people, Emily (Eva Abramian) and George (James Simenc), and in the third, which takes place nine years later, we survey the impact death has had on Grover’s Corner.
Central to the story is the Stage Manager (Crystal Jackson), who acts as narrator throughout, assumes the roles of some of the characters, and also gives a history of the town and its development through the years. Jackson’s performance is essentially good, but she is offhand and breezy at times, when gravitas and subtlety would be more effective and appropriate. There is also a distinct emotional dryness that seeps into this production early on. This is especially in evidence in the final act at the cemetery, where the shoeless, white-clad ghosts of the departed citizens are gathered — but this crucial scene transpires in a noticeably hurried and mechanical fashion.
The production unfolds on a bare stage with a minimum of props (mostly tables and chairs), in adherence to Wilder’s original instructions. On balance, director Richard Israel’s large multi-ethnic ensemble turn in sound performances. Lisa D. Katz’s lighting and Cameron Combe’s sound design are especially fine. Eden Livingood and Jean-Paul Barjon provide splendid accompaniment on the violin and cello.
Actors’ Co-op, David Schall Theatre at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2:30 p.m., through October 23. www.ActorsCo-op.org or (323) 462-8460. Running time: Two hours and 10 minutes with one intermission.