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Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize winning 1938 play is one of my favorites, and this in an exquisite production of it. Paul Newman as the Stage Manager, in one of his most memorable performances, leads a superb ensemble cast. So much of this play is mime...cooking on the invisible stove, eating the imaginary breakfast...and the actors flow through the movements so easily, one almost sees the missing objects.
Wilder's play, which was inspired by Gertrude Stein's 1925 "The Making of Americans", draws one into it, with the actors sometimes talking directly to the viewer; it has a simplicity and charm that make it stay fresh even when one knows the words by heart.
The time is the early 20th century, in Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, and centers on the Webb and Gibbs families, who live next door to each other, and especially Emily Webb (Maggie Lacey) and George Gibbs (Ben Fox), who fall in love with gentle glances and sweet words. Lacey and Fox are luminous, and capture the heart of this lovely play.
As their parents, Jayne Atkinson and Frank Connors are marvelous as Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs, as are Jane Curtin and Jeffrey DeMunn as Charles and Myrtle Webb.
Originally produced for Connecticut's Westport County Playhouse, the show later moved to Broadway, where it garnered Paul Newman, 78 at the time, a Tony nomination.
Directed by James Naughton, this is a splendid performance of a perfect, and quite profound play; it is a keeper, and one that will make you smile, and sometimes weep, over and over again. Total running time is 120 minutes.
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on March 14, 2004
This PBS production of "Our Town" catches much of the flavor of the play as Thornton Wilder intended it to be staged. Paul Newman is fine as the Stage Manager, bringing his long lifetime of experience to a subtle interpretation of the role. The rest of the cast bring the town of Grovers Corners to life. Fans of the original "Saturday Night Live" may be surprised to see Jane Curtin as Mrs. Webb; although I would have advised her to lose the weird accent she uses, her performance is realistic and adds to the play.
For those who don't know the play, it shows life in a small town in New Hampshire circa 1901 - 1913. The main characters are two young people who grow up, fall in love, get married, and are separated by death. On the surface, it's just another piece of nostalgia, but there are dark currents in Grovers Corners, little ironies and inconsistencies that are often commented on by the Stage Manager, and are embodied in the town drunk Simon Stimson.
Be advised if you don't like sentiment: you'll have a lump in throat throughout the entire third act as the play explores the beauty of everyday life. And afterward, you'll look at your family and friends in a different way.
Bravo to PBS for having the vision to bring this classic to a new audience, staged in the bare-bones way of the original play. Buy this DVD - you'll watch it over and over and force it on your friends.
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"Choose an unimportant day" is the advice her mother-in-law gives Emily, newly arrived at the land of the dead, when she decides to return to the world briefly in Thornton Wilder's incomparable classic. Emily chooses her 12th birthday to return to earth and finds even that day all too painful and quickly leaves Grover Corners to be with the dead. This heartbreaking scene still makes my eyes burn as the play remains powerful, having survived countless high school productions. Paul Newman as the stage manager gives a brilliant performance. Some of his lines must have been poignant for him: "You wake up one day and you are 70." He is now old, over 80-- but he has aged well-- and venerable but still a fine actor and a perfect choice to head this production, originally produced at the Westport Country Playhouse and later moved to Broadway. In commentary that accompanies the play Joanne Woodward, one of the producers, said that she wanted to mount this prouction after the awful events of 9/11.

Almost anything you can say about "Our Town" will sound trite, but it is universal, timeless and about all the things that matter-- young love, marriage, old age, death, the daily routines of putting a meal on the table, the beauty of living day to day although we the living sometimes run roughshod over others with our own self-centeredness and do not look at the stars enough.

Watching this production for the second time, I was struck at how poetic Wilder's language is and how beautifully Mr. Newman delivers his lines, along with the other supporting characters as well. This production is a perfect example that less is more. There are few props and often simple piano music; but you will be convinced, for instance, that Newman is preparing ice cream sodas for Emily and George as he only goes through the motions.

If there is any theatre lover who hasn't seen "Our Town" this production would be a good way to spend a worthwhile two hours of an evening. Those who love this play, and we are many, will of course want to see it too.
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on November 9, 2006
We bought this DVD because our daughter got the lead (Emily) in her college's presentation of it and we wanted to get an introduction to the play before we went to see it live. When we watched the movie, we were thoroughly impressed with the acting of the entire ensemble and with the quality of the production.
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on February 18, 2008
... see it here. Newman as the Stage Manager is completely in charge, and does not succomb to sentiment. A reader, or viewer, who thinks this play is sentimental, may stand corrected, especially when dismissed by Newman at the end of the production. The staging is minimalist, as originally intended; this is about masterful actors and dialogue, and stagecraft that evokes and insinuates. Well done!
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on April 27, 2009
I used this video to help my high school seniors better understand the play. This was an amazing version of the play. The production stayed true to the script and Paul Newman was a powerful and enthusiastic stage manager (narrator). One of the best versions of the play I've seen. It is very moving.
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on August 22, 2007
If you can't see the real thing this production is the next best thing. Wonderful staging and acting from all the cast.. Paul Newman's performance is worth the price of the DVD on it's own.
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on April 13, 2014
I bought this for my junior class (American literature) and I'm very pleased. My students were surprised, at first, that there were no props to speak of (and the dad pushes a push mower that isn't there) but by the end we had all suspended our disbelief, and we all cried together during the final act :-)
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on December 9, 2014
The movie is exactly what it says it is; it is a movie version of a play. However, my eighth grade advanced literature students had trouble understanding the accents that the players used throughout the play. The play appeared very dark on screen, as well. In all, the movie was okay, but watch your audience with this. My eighth graders were bored in watching the movie, even though they loved reading the play itself.
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on December 18, 2013
My son had to do a play review. He read the book but I also had him watch this to see the staging. It is an actual video of the play. Don't get this expecting a movie. It is the play filmed. Ladders are used for the high windows in the house, etc. I wasn't sure my other family members would want to watch it but got it because my son needed to understand the blocking elements for his theater class. Instead, my other kids came in and really enjoyed it. The play has some really good messages Watching it again reminded me of the first time I read the play. It is a good reminder to care for one another and take advantage of the minutes you have with them because you don't get that time back. I think everyone should watch or read "Our Town" at least once. No matter what you believe, it is a good reminder to LIVE life.
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