REVIEW: APU’s ‘Our Town’ depicts beauty in daily life
'Our Town' emphasizes the importance of appreciating everyday life.
The Professor (Grace Pruitt) in Darryl Hovis' production of "Our Town." Photo courtesy of Larry Sandez.
The Stage Manager shuffles through props as she hands hats and books to the cast. The audience carries on waiting for the show to begin; yet, little do they know, it has already commenced.
On Thursday, Azusa Pacific premiered “Our Town,” a production by Thornton Wilder known for its minimalistic scenery and its capability to successfully break the third wall. Held in the 90-occupant Black Box Theatre until March 3, the play places the ordinary lives of everyday people on a pedestal. Through this framework, the story initiates a process of self-reflection while focusing on the importance of understanding the simplicities of life.
The production of “Our Town” draws attention to the citizens of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. Considering “Our Town” is a frame tale, the local setting brings the story right to the audience members’ seats.
The omniscient narrator known as the Stage Manager, played by Mayreni Sweis, facilitates the progression of the plot, which centers around the Webb and Gibbs families. The protagonists Emily Webb, played by Gracie Doan, and George Gibbs, played by Jack Whitaker, take the audience on a journey through the commonalities of life –– the affairs of growing up, the process of love and the heartbreak of death.
These elements are explored for a purpose: “so people will know a few simple facts about us,” the Stage Manager narrates. The Stage Manager creates this play so generations to come will know about the common lives of individuals and not simply the glamorous aspects of existence.
While the characters are the ones encountering such affairs, the audience members may start to notice elements that are relevant to their own lives — elements that remain the same throughout generations, much like the Stage Manager’s initial hopes.
The unadorned facets of detail in the story and props makes this self-portrayal possible. With minimal physical props –– one wood panel, two tables and four chairs –– a story just as fundamental fills the theatre. The storyline is straightforward enough that it allows the audience to insert their own realities and seek themselves within the play.
Jonathan Woodruff, an undeclared sophomore, witnessed a reflection of his own life within the simplicities of the play.
“It’s not a huge, heavy plot quite all the time … but this is real life, real people and this is happening. It’s reminiscent of us and everyday life,” Woodruff said.
The story of Grover’s Corners and its people becomes more about the audience, rather than the actors themselves.
Part of the cast during Darryl Hovis’ production of “Our Town.” Photo courtesy of Larry Sandez.
Nothing primarily dazzling or breathtaking occurs throughout the play, yet near the end, Emily finds herself on the other side of life. The audience only understands the central message of “Our Town” –– the greatness in everyday commonalities –– once life is taken away.
“Does any human being realize life while they’re living it?” Emily asks.
“No,” answers the Stage Manager.
With this, it becomes evident that the Stage Manager is not solely referencing Emily, but society as a whole.
“Our Town” underlines the pertinence of seeking the beauty within ordinary life before it’s too late. This message emerges right at the inception of the play, when the crowd doesn’t understand it has already started. Because the play began without a grand entrance or glorious appeal, it seemed to hold less importance, yet that is the mentality “Our Town” strives to reveal.
Gabriel Dedrick-Jaurequi, a freshman psychology major, observed people can easily get caught up in the striking moments of life and neglect the beauty of daily, traditional happenings.
“The conversations between each family, the community, the town, it was simple and to the point … That’s how reality and life is,” said Dedrick-Jaurequi. “It’s not this spectacular thing –– but it is … We just have to see it through a bigger picture, like Emily did.”
The “Our Town” production was not just an APU take on a classic. It was a reflective and revelatory experience that allowed for self-examination about how we view day-to-day life.
“It’s more than just a story … It’s the story of life,” Woodruff said. “It’s more than just our town. It’s our world. It’s our life. It’s the story of everyday people.”