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Review: 'Our Town' packs an emotional punch

Siblings Emily (Emma Cory) and Wally (Eliot Scafe) mime a breakfast scene with their mother, Mrs. Webb (Rebekah Freed), during a rehearsal for “Our Town.” The play runs this weekend at the Sheldon Theatre. (photo by Samantha Bengs)

It's made clear early in "Our Town" that death will have an important role in the plot, but the forewarning doesn't prevent the third act from being any less of a punch to the gut.

Phoenix Theatre's production of the 1938 Thornton Wilder play stays true to the classic, presenting a raw, stark look at love and loss in turn-of-the-century, small-town America.

The story is centered on two neighboring families: Dr. and Mrs. Gibbs (David Oakes and Carol Moudry Warnacutt) with two children, and Mr. and Mrs. Webb (Mike Fitzmaurice and Rebekah Freed) with two of their own. The eldest Webb child is Emily (Emma Cory) — an intelligent, sometimes anxious teen who falls for the baseball-obsessed Gibbs boy, George (Charlie Woodruff). Through a series of scenes spread over several years, the families share the joy and inevitable heartache of life.

In line with the source material, the stage in "Our Town" is nearly empty except for a few tables, chairs and ladders in front of a dark backdrop. In place of sets and props, the story is supported by pantomime and a self-aware stage manager (Angelica Dimock) who speaks directly to the audience.

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The sparseness of the production serves to amplify the actors, providing little distraction from the emotion on their faces. Cory's take on Emily shines especially bright, delivering an honest, moving performance in the second and third acts.

Though "Our Town" takes place in early-1900s New Hampshire, the characters and themes are universal to any town. Audiences are sure to find parallels in their own lives, either with the lead actors or the memorable secondary cast.

While not overtly a seasonal play, its message of appreciating the mundane in family life rings true for the holidays.

"Our Town" is directed by Min MartinOakes. The production runs through Sunday at the Sheldon Theatre, 443 W. Third St.

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If you go...

Who: Phoenix Theatre

What: Thornton Wilder's "Our Town"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Where: Sheldon Theatre

Tickets: $10-17, Kids Play Free event

More info: www.sheldontheatre.org or 651-388-8700

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

(651) 301-7875
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