Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Our Town
Olney Theatre Center
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of An Act of God

Jon Hudson Odom, Tony Nam, and Megan Anderson
Photo by Stan Barouh
Thornton Wilder's play Our Town has become so much a part of our culture that it's difficult to realize how radical it was at its premiere in 1938: a play with a few pieces of furniture standing in for a set, with a Stage Manager character who addresses the audience, and an underlying goal of seeking out truth through theatrical illusion. Director Aaron Posner has found a different way to use artifice as a lens into reality: puppets.

Don't worry, Posner's production in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at Olney Theatre Center in suburban Maryland is not a send-up of Wilder's classic in the mode of Avenue Q. The theatricality of seven actors who play their own roles, then take on the other characterizations while manipulating lifelike if child-size figures designed by Aaron Cromie, is hypnotic as it draws the viewer in, creating an alternative reality.

Posner has staged the action "alley style," with the performance area running lengthwise between facing banks of seats. Misha Kachman's bare-plank scenic design sets the home of the Webb family (Todd Scofield, Andrea Harris-Smith, Cindy De La Cruz) at one end and the Gibbs family (Tony Nam, Megan Anderson, William Vaughan) at the other. In between, the Stage Manager (Jon Hudson Odom) slips in and out of character while cast members provide live sound effects: the clink of glass milk bottles, the whistle of a distant train.

Another one-time theatrical innovation that has become commonplace is multicultural casting, which demonstrates how Wilder's self-contained town of early 20th-century white, Christian New Englanders can be a microcosm for an entire diverse world. The puppets are diverse as well, from the outspoken African-American church lady to the reframing of a pedantic professor as a woman.

Odom is a low-key marvel as he shape-shifts from one characterization to another, and the other actors find the unique humanity in the people they embody. De La Cruz and Vaughan convey the heartbreaking youth of Emily and George without overplaying, while Nam, Anderson, Scofield, and Harris-Smith bring a comforting lived-in presence to their roles.

Olney Theatre Center
Our Town
October 4th - November 12th, 2017
By Thornton Wilder
Mrs. Gibbs (and others): Megan Anderson
Emily (and others): Cindy De La Cruz
Mr. Gibbs (and others): Tony Nam
Stage Manager (and others): Jon Hudson Odom
Mr. Webb (and others): Todd Scofield
Mrs. Webb (and others): Andrea Harris Smith
George (and others): William Vaughan
Directed by Aaron Posner
Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab
2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road
Olney, MD
Ticket Information: 301-924-3400 or

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