Top positive review
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"there is something eternal about every human being"
on July 17, 2004
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.