A moving and enjoyable take on ‘Our Town’ at Classic Theatre of Maryland

Everything came together in this production of Thornton Wilder’s classic American play.

Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of Our Town was a creative take on Thornton Wilder’s classic American play. Directed by Sally Boyett, it offered a quietly moving look at small-town America.

Dexter Hamlett gave a quiet strength to the Stage Manager, the narrator who guides us through the play. Speaking directly to the audience, he conjured up the whole town through just his evocative words, letting us imagine it all on the stage. He also offered profound thoughts on life, marriage, and patriotism, delivered in simple, down-to-earth language. He was also funny, interrupting the highly detailed descriptions of Professor Willard (Jack Venton) and sending him off. As the Constable, Hamlett was talkative, relating his misadventures to any who listened.

Matthew Harkins (George) and Bridget Lynn (Emily) in ‘Our Town.’ Photo by Sally Boyett.

Bridget Lynn brought a youthful eagerness to Emily, half of the couple at the play’s heart. She earnestly asked her mother (Shayna Freedman) if she is pretty and cried after criticizing her beau George (Matthew Harkins). She joyfully recreated a memory, exclaiming at all the details, even when she became overwhelmed.

Matthew Harkins played George, Emily’s neighbor and love, with a sweet innocence. Talking with her over a soda, he earnestly promised to change his behavior. Speaking with Emily’s father (Matt DeNoto), he glossed over a slight double entendre. He collapsed, weeping, at a gravestone. Watching Emily and George’s relationship slowly develop was a delight.

Nancy Krebs gave a pleasant domesticity to George’s mother, Mrs. Gibbs. She leapt at any chance to get her husband (John Pruessner) a vacation and shut down gossip about the minister (Jack Venton). She was nervous about an upcoming wedding. John Pruessner played her husband, Dr. Gibbs, with a loving paternalism, talking firmly to George about responsibilities while also increasing his allowance. He calmed Mrs. Gibbs’ wedding jitters by remembering his own nerves. Together, they made a lovely model of marriage.

Shayna Freedman brought a quiet firmness to Mrs. Webb, Emily’s mother, telling her she was “attractive for normal purposes.” At a visit from George, she insisted on him not seeing Emily. Matt DeNoto played Mr. Webb with great affection underlying a seriousness. As editor of the local paper, he talked about enjoying the beauty of nature when asked about the dearth of “culture” in the town. He poked fun at his father’s advice about marriage, and comforted Emily in distress.

Jack Venton gave a complexity to the minister Simon Stinson, making sharp jokes about the choir’s musical talents, while later shuffling through the streets, looking forlorn. Much later he commented bitterly on life. As Professor Willard, he humorously gave precise, elaborate details about the formation of the town, needing the Stage Manager’s gentle redirection to change topics.

Denise Marie Whalen played Mrs. Soames with comic glee, eagerly repeating gossip about the minister and commenting on a wedding. Drew Sharpe gave a youthful helpfulness as Joe and Si Crowell, brothers and paper boys. Isaiah Raxsdale played the milkman Howie Newsome with a joyfulness and a quiet mournfulness as Sam Craig, returning to town for a funeral. Sharpe and Raxsdale also brought a boisterousness to boys heckling a wedding.

Clockwise from top left: Dexter Hamlett (the Stage Manager); Matthew Harkins (George) and Júlia Garcia (Rebecca); Shayna Freedman (Mrs. Webb); Matthew Harkins (George) and Bridget Lynn (Emily) in ‘Our Town.’ Photos by Sally Boyett.

Set Designer Salydon Boyken created a highly mobile set, with tables, benches, and chairs coming out as needed. Chairs were arranged for a church wedding, a soda fountain, and most creatively, a cemetery. A staircase on the right brought characters upstairs and down.

Costume Designer Sally Boyett’s outfits felt appropriate to the period, with boys in newsboy caps and trousers rolled up to the knee. The men have bowlers or fedoras. Emily wears a long, red skirt before changing into a white gown. Wig Designer Tommy Malek’s various hairpieces enhanced the feeling of the early 1900s.

Lighting Designer William K. D’Eugenio reflected the play’s changing time and mood. The lights dimmed for dawn and evening. Blue light bathed the stage in Act 3, adding to the supernatural feeling; the lights rose briefly for a memory. Sound Designer Folger Ridout threw out sounds that added to the authenticity, like a rooster crowing and a train passing by.

Voice and Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensured that the actors’ accents sounded authentic and remained intelligible. She also made sure that the background music, including the songs, was audible without overwhelming the play. Marc Irwin arranged the organ music for the church.

Sally Boyett did a wonderful job as director. The actors navigated the stage and each other well, often providing action in the background, like singing, while the main action occurred in front. They made Act 3, which is so different from the previous acts, feel natural, letting the audience understand the rules and the magic. Everything came together for an enjoyable evening with moments of reflection.

Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute and one 10-minute intermission.

Our Town played from April 7 through April 30, 2023, at Classic Theatre of Maryland – 1804 West Street, Annapolis, MD. For information and tickets on future productions, call the box office at 410-415-3513 or visit CTM’s website.


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