The Crimson Tine Players’ performance of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town was presented at the Riverside Centre May 29 to 31st.
This production showcased Princeton’s impressive diversity of talent.
Set in turn-of-the-century New England, the performance sets up the audience to create for themselves, their own image of Grover’s Corners. The original script was written with few props and a nearly bare stage.
The ladder scene was especially poignant in its simplicity.The ladders, being the hallmark of the play, leave the audience to engage their imaginations in order to visualize each scene.
The uncluttered stage was off-set by the complexity of those who reside in Grover’s Corners – their ups, their downs, their laughter and their tears.
All three acts are narrated by the ever-present, dapper, watch-fob-vested frontman, Derek Hodgson, the stage manager (and wedding minister). Hodgson’s character walks you through each scene, detailing the very essence of the play, bringing the production together as a whole.
As the play progresses, the audience continues to get the gist of what this unassuming little town is experiencing, delving into it’s daily lives and eventual future.
With an eclectic cast of characters, the little town of Grover’s Corners gives up its secrets along with the turmoil hidden behind the stoic faces of the older citizens of this turn-of-the-century hamlet, leaving no stone unturned.
In particular, Taylor Gibb, whose character, the starry-eyed Emily Webb, is reminiscent of a young Elizabeth Taylor.
Taylor’s real-life younger sister Victoria plays the role of the typically self-absorbed little sister of George Gibbs, played by Eric Ogrinc, whose sights are set on becoming a farmer and is smitten with his next-door-neighbour, Emily, whom he will eventually marry.
The ever-inebriated and troubled church organist/choir leader Simon Stinson was played by Fisher Wang. Sisters Maddisen and Abbagael Fulton took on the roles of Wally Webb and Joe/Si Crowell, while Emily McConnell had a number of scenes as Sam Craig, an out-of-town cousin of Emily.
Ryan Francis flitted in and out of the scenes as both a wedding and a funeral guest. Long-time player, Dayton Wales played the unassuming local milkman in each act, as well as the town undertaker, Joe Stoddard, at Emily’s funeral scene. Auditorium player, choir member and woman-among-the-dead was played by Lisa Carleton. This is Carleton’s first stint at acting.
Dick Bird, along with his loyal dog, Bullet, played the role of editor of Grover’s Corners local newspaper, and father to the besotted Emily. His wife of 40 years, Myrtle Webb, was played by Deborah Cappos. The doctor’s wife, and George’s mother, Julia Gibbs, was played by Heather Anderson. Both roles characterized the typically tireless woman of the times. Mrs. Soames, the town gossip, was played by Gillian Hodgson. Sylvia Bailey was cast in multiple roles throughout the play and is one of the founding members of the Crimson Tine Players. The clumsy and eccentric Professor Willard, along with the overly diligent Constable Willard were played by Dawn Gardner.
It’s the behind-the-scene crew who often don’t get credited for their efforts. This handful of people were responsible for hair, makeup, costume creation and design. Sue Alton brought the play to life with her period wardrobe. Pam Kepner, hair stylist, kept the players convincing for the time period. Guadalupe Gutierrez ran the makeup department with the help of Hillary Riel, who also assisted in ticket sales. The play was overseen by line prompter, Marylou Terryberry, while Emily Bain covered the lighting and sound.
The play’s director, Josh Herzog, who also immerses himself in the character of the town’s no-nonsense Doc Webb, in real time, is a well respected English lit and social studies teacher at PSS.
This is Herzog’s second endeavour as director (the first being Hansel and Gretel in 2011) and is no stranger to little theatre. He chose Our Town in honour of his mother Susan, who had planned to direct it. Susan passed away three years ago, before her dream was realized. In honour of her memory, Herzog left a chair vacant during the performance in the front row for her.
It is a Celtic tradition to set a place for the ones you’ve lost – whether at a play or a family gathering.
Thornton Wilder’s Our Town has been performed on stages from Broadway, to a myriad of small towns and large cities for over 79 years. The multi-talented Crimson Tine Players would have made the author proud with their rendition of Our Town.
For director Josh Herzog, it’s been a labour of love. He simply had this to say -“From my perspective, it’s been a thrill-ride working with this fantastic cast and dedicated crew….the actors have put in countless hours of work and had to deal with my overly picky and cantankerous style of directing – not an easy task, but one that they faced with dogged determination.”