Saturday I went to see Theater South Carolina’s production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, directed by Steve Pearson. I was familiar with the plot of this American classic, but interested to see what new life would be brought to it.
The set was, as described in the script, quite minimalist: just a few chairs and tables set up on a wooden floor. The floor had a rich color that worked well with the lighting, and several sliding wagons. When the sliding wagons were moved, I thought it was interesting, but I hoped that there would be more configurations. Perhaps different locations would have new stage configurations? This was not the case. The stage was arranged in two or three simple patterns. All of the detail missing in the set could have been supplied by the actors’ imaginations, but that did not exactly happen. To me, the acting felt flat and unemotional. This was further exasperated by the New Hampshire dialect that all of the actors, to varying degrees, used. While it did set the scene as a small town in the Northeast around 1900, it made some actors hard to understand and they sounded nasally. It distracted me as an audience member.
Some parts of the show were lovely. The costumes were very period appropriate, set the scene for the show well, and functioned wonderfully. The same goes for the lights. Without lighting designer Ashley Pittman’s gorgeous and expressive lighting, the show would have lacked significant dynamism. With such a minimalist set, the lighting was almost entirely responsible for creating environment and attractiveness. Pittman achieved this beautifully. And I am in no way biased because she is a personal friend. My favorite moments in the show were created by the lighting. Emily and George’s scene at their windowsills in the moonlight was captivating; just watching the moonlight on their faces made the atmosphere so romantic. I also gasped right along with everyone else as the graveyard floor light up with stars at the end of the show. It was the best effect all night.
Overall, I wished the show had a clearer picture of exactly what the audience was to take away, but there was some beautiful imagery layered in to make watching the show a pleasant experience.