A unique maternalism is cast over the production of Thornton Wilder’s classic “Our Town,” as Ellen Geer brings qualities of guardianship and benevolence to the role of the Stage Manager, usually cast male and usually played with a cold firmness. Geer elevates this production, which befits the outdoor setting splendidly, in tandem with the two mothers, Mrs. Webb (Susan Angelo) and Mrs. Gibb (Melora Marshall), who keep things perky and quaint.Wilder’s tale of the fictional Grover’s Corners, N.H., continues to resonate in the 21st century, contrasting the hustle of everyday life and the lack of daily reflection. The milkman, the cop, the newspaper editor and the young kids fill the stage with innocence and rustic charm. Directors Geer and Heidi Helen Davis keep the pace brisk through the first two acts as young George Gibbs (Jeremiah James) and Emily Webb (Willow Geer-Alsop) reach their teens, get engaged and marry under the Stage Manager’s watchful eye. Act three’s famed funeral scene avoids overwrought sentimentality though it could stand to take on a bit more darkness. Geer-Alsop gets a chance to shine as the deceased wife and mother — her from-the-grave perf resonates much deeper than her lighthearted and accent-challenged reading of the first two acts. Other players deliver even-keeled perfs that ably reflect the reality of small-town New Hampshire. Thomas Brown’s simple set with no props takes full advantage of the spacious stage and the tree-filled hillside. Aaron Bronsal’s lighting design is effective without overwhelming the onstage action.
Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga; 300 seats; $20 top
The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum presents the play in three acts by Thornton Wilder. Directed by Heidi Helen Davis and Ellen Geer.
Set, Thomas Brown; lights, Aaron Bronsal; costumes, Rae Robison. Opened and reviewed July 29, 2000; closes Oct. 21. Running time: 2 HOURS 10 MIN.
Stage Manager - Ellen Geer Dr. Gibbs - Leonard Kelly-Young Mrs. Gibbs - Melora Marshall Mr. Webb - David Ellenstein Mrs. Webb - Susan Angelo George Gibbs - Jeremiah James Rebecca Gibbs - Danielle O'Terry Emily Webb - Willow Geer-Alsop Wally Webb - Ezra McKenzie LeBank
With: Sheridan Crist, Tom Allard, Robert John Metcalf, Kellen McDaniel, Marshall McDaniel, Elizabeth George, Aaron Glickman, Steve Shields, Alison Lee, Dylan Booth Vigus, John Shoenfelt, Hannah Eden Chodos.