"Our Town" was never much on the theatre. The nearest it got to the arts was choir singing. But the New England Repertory production of Willer's play brings one very close to Grover's Corners, N. H. The pipe-smoking stage manager seems to have found his old haunts under the sagging roof beams of the Joy Street Playhouse. Even the milkman who bustles across the stage seems to be making his rounds for the umpteenth time.
Despite the confused mysticism in the last act. "Our Town" is primarily an attempt to strip the non-essentials from life. The Repertory Players have been trying to strip the non-essentials from the theatre, and the residue seems particularly appropriate to their present subject. Because they are used to a minimum of scenery, they manage very easily with Wilder's bare stage. Because they are accustomed to a small audience (the Play-house seats only 100), they can be more familiar with it, even to the point where the stage manager remarks, "That's the end of the first act. You can go outside and smoke now--those of you who do smoke." And because they enjoy acting at this level of simplicity, they can better represent people who enjoy living at the same level.
Chadwick Maurer, as the Stage Manager, sets just the right mood for the whole play. Carol Wheeler, as Emily, and Burt French, as George, make difficult transition from childhood to adulthood with remarkable skill. Perhaps the outstanding performance is that of William Otis, as Editor Webb. His dialogue with George, the bridegroom-to-be, over the breakfast table on the wedding morning is a masterpiece of indirection. Except for an occasional overplayed speech, the rest of the cast, which includes John Rand, Robert Resor, and Robert Bastille, all '43, is up to the standard of the principals.
The Playhouse is open Wednesday through Saturday nights every week, and is currently presenting "Our Town" in alternation with "As You Like It." There is no fixed charge for admission, but you pay whatever you want to contribute, which usually ranges from 50 cents to a dollar. It's wise to call up beforehand for a reservation.