[NOTE: This review was written in November 2020, as part of my 2010-2019 decade-in-review post.]
I saw Thornton Wilder's *Our Town* at the Barrow Street Theatre in July 2010. I've always loved the play but had never seen a production of it onstage (I'd seen a few stage productions on TV, which doesn't really count). I heard about this production down in Greenwich Village, was intrigued, and decided to buy a ticket when I heard that Helen Hunt was playing the Stage Manager.
*Our Town* is a play from 1938, looking back at 1901. It takes place in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, and is narrated by the Stage Manager, who speaks directly to the audience and tells them about the town and the people in it. Productions nearly always take place on a bare stage. The first act ends with the central couple, George and Emily, as teenagers, talking to each other from their second-floor windows (they live next door to each other). I believe in the original production the two actors were sitting at the top of two ladders.
Helen Hunt had played Emily in the 1990s Lincoln Center production of the play, which had Spalding Gray as the Stage Manager. She was cast in that role in this production, directed by David Cromer. She was revelatory, spoke with such sincerity and emotional depth. The production had the actors in contemporary clothes, which was a bit of a surprise. The biggest shock of the play was in the final scene (spoiler alert). Emily has died and is in the cemetary, sitting on a folding chair like the other people who are there. She decides she wants to go back to revisit a moment in her life and chooses her 12th birthday. The Stage Manager takes her back to her house and she sees her parents in their kitchen. The startling <<coup de théâtre>> of this produciton had the Stage Manager pull a curtain at the back of the stage, revealing a hyper-realistic 1890s set and Emily's parents in 1890s clothes, her mother frying real bacon on a real stove. I can't explain how powerful that moment was, it was one of the most shocking moments I'd ever seen onstage.