In this Deaf West and Pasadena Playhouse collaboration, the American classic “Our Town” increased the close-knit concept of Thorton Wilder’s 1938 three-act metatheatrical play. This weekend is your last chance to see it at the Pasadena Playhouse.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play uses a stage manager as a guide to Grover’s Corner. The Stage Manager narrates, comments and even participates in the action as the soda shop owner and a minister.
Some people complained that the play started while the lights were still on, but the actors come on to the stage and take sturdy wooden chairs, most of them sitting at the back until the action commences. On television, Frank Sinatra (1955) and Hal Holbrook (1977) with Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint and Robby Benson and Glynnis O’Connor respectively playing the two lovers–George Gibbs and Emily Webb–who serve as the backbone of the action.
The Webb family and the Gibbs family are next-door neighbors in Grover’s Corner. George is gifted in baseball, but not as good as Emily in mathematics. He can see her studying from his bedroom window and asks her for help. They become friend during the first act, “Daily Life” and then sweethearts and spouses in the second, “Love and Marriage,” and finally are painfully parted in the last act, “Death and Dying.” If you’re unfamiliar with Deaf West, each deaf actor is paired with a voice actor and many of the speaking actors also sign. In this multicultural cast, Deric Augustine plays George and Sandra Mae Frank is Emily with Sharon Pierre-Louis voicing Emily.
Here Jane Kaczmarek (“Malcolm in the Middle”) plays the narrator as a married townswoman and her narration is signed by various members who interact with her as spouse or friend. Thus Russell Harvard is both Mr. Webb and the Stage Manager, Troy Kotsur is the Stage Manager and Simon Stimson and Alexandria Wailes is Stage Manager and Mrs. Gibbs. Kaczmarek has a beautiful, matter-of-fact voice but she also becomes the straight man when paired with Kotsur who becomes her spouse within the confines of Grover’s Corner when Kaczmarek is both the soda shop owner and the minister. Kotsur and Kaczmarek together become ministers for George and Emily’s wedding.
Kotsur with his clear, crisp signing adds more humor than is generally found in “Our Town.” This and other pairings provide greater warmth and tenderness to this adaptation.