Enduring (and Endearing) Classic at Town and Country Players

by Walter Bender

The cast of Town and Country Players' outstanding production of Thornton Wilder's classic, OUR TOWN, running in Buckingham, PA through June 9.

Ok, show of hands…how many of you have seen OUR TOWN before? Ok, how many of you have been in OUR TOWN before? Yes, the play that is required reading in many theatre courses, almost a requirement for any theatrical resume, and the show that almost everyone could quote (or paraphrase) is now running at Town and Country Players in Buckingham. And, I tell all of you that you should forget your prior experiences and go see it.

This taut production is headlined by Tom Foral as the Stage Manager. Foral is making a return to the Town and Country stage after a brief hiatus of 52 years. In the interim, he has appeared on Broadway (debuting in Woody Allen’s DON’T DRINK THE WATER), film (featuring two credits in MGM films in his bio), TV (commercials and soap operas), and many regional and summer theatre productions. This has given Foral a commanding stage presence…his comfort and familiarity with the material and working in front of an audience are a pleasure to see. We instantly feel at home as he provides background material, an outline of the story, background on the town of Grover’s Corners, and directions to the landmarks, as well as fitting into the story as needed.

Joining Foral on stage are Jon Knapp as Dr. Gibbs, Valerie Sharper as Mrs. Gibbs, John R. Neuman as George and Gwen Etzl as Rebecca. The Webb family is portrayed by Michael Schiumo as Mr. Webb, Danielle Mallat as Mrs. Webb, Gabe Conover as Wally and Colleen Smith as Emily. I particularly enjoyed the performances of these “families”…I got a real sense of connection among them. In addition, the chemistry between Neuman and Smith as George and Emily was a pleasure, from the awkward first forays into a relationship through their marriage and George’s inconsolable grief at Emily’s funeral. Kudos to these very talented performers and to director John Zimmerman for bringing out the subtlety of the family units in this production. The rest of this very talented cast (too many to mention, but go to the show and read the program!) are all to be commended as well for maintaining a consistency of style and pace that was a pleasure to experience. OUR TOWN is a lengthy show…3 acts, about 2½ hours…but each act seemed to fly by, taking us all on a journey that we longed to see and wished to see more of.

Classic theatre pieces are sometimes overdone, and theatres try to outsmart their audiences by bringing something “new” to a classic piece. To their credit, Director Zimmerman and Co-Producers Nancy Ridgeway and John Demeter have kept to the production’s roots, allowing the story and the performances to be the star. I was extremely impressed with the overall production, the nuances in both the performances and the production itself. This is a show not to be missed.

Written by Thornton Wilder
Directed by John Zimmerman
May 25-June 9, 2012
Town and Country Players
4158 York Road
Bucking ham, PA

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