Initially, the Huntington’s incredible production of “Our Town” feels like a sweet, schmaltzy, deceptively simple look at small town life. Nothing much happens — or does it?
Director David Cromer strictly adheres to playwright Thornton Wilder’s instructions to use minimal props and set. Audience members, seated as if in a crowded town hall, are forced to create their own visions of Grover’s Corner, N.H. The Stage Manager presides over the audience and the town’s residents as they explore the joy, sadness and mundane nature of existence.
The evolution of the town’s women is what makes the experience so fascinating. With little more than a change of clothes, Mrs. Gibbs (Melinda Lopez) and Mrs. Webb (Stacy Fischer) age with eerie authenticity. Therese Plaehn delivers a gut-wrenching turn as Emily, while Marianna Bassham redefines excellence with her simple, stirring portrayal of Mrs. Soames.
With 32 actors traipsing around the small performance space, it’s hard not to agree with the Stage Manager’s contention that “whenever you’re near the human race, there are layers and layers of nonsense.” But there’s so much more.
Cramer’s “Our Town” enables you to see the cracks in life’s facade — for better or worse. Was life simpler in 1901? Were people kinder? As Emily asks, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?”
Sounds heady, but it doesn’t have to be. Wilder’s words are breathtakingly brought to life. It’s up to you what you do with them.
Through Jan. 27
BCA Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont St., Boston