‘Your Town’: Centennial production of Wilder’s classic play is good theater | Review

In the most poignant and memorable episode of ‘Our Town

In the most poignant and memorable episode of ‘Our Town

This version corrects the time of the Sunday performance.

If you don’t make it to the San Juan Community Theatre Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights at 7:30, or Sunday at 2, you will miss a meaningful experience that no islander should miss.

It’s not just the fact that it’s one of the crowning events of the Friday Harbor Centennial Celebration, nor that a cast of 24 of our talented friends and neighbors have put in long hard hours of rehearsal these recent months to bring it off.

It’s because it is great theater.

John E. Davis’ direction of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1938 play about Grover’s Corners, N.H., as slightly adapted by Theresa Finn for Friday Harbor, will bring bittersweet memories for old-timers as well as appreciation by youngsters as to how it was at the turn of the twentieth century and how much it still is like today.

Ken Serratt plays the stage manager, setting up the atmosphere of each homespun scene in a masterful and non-intrusive manner that is quite effective. The setting is sparse and yet believable as the strong personalities go through the throes of life and death … finally conjoined at the cemetery. The production team (which included several who doubled as actors) deserved a standing ovation as well as the cast. Davis should well be proud of all 25 who worked behind the scenes.

Lyne McPherson’s scenic art was beautiful. It spoke volumes of what it is like to live in a beautiful place like Grover’s Corners (or Friday Harbor). Costume designer Dodie Swift Taylor, assisted by Susan Williams, Sharon Lannan and Marilyn Findlay, brought the early 1900s vividly to life.

Choral director Denise King deserves kudos for the choir performers’ work, as does Deb Langhans for the coaching of acting/pantomime.

I always sit in the front left since I have a bum left eye. It so happened the occupants of the cemetery were directly in front of me. I studied each mummified face. They didn’t blink or move until they spoke to the heroine Emily when she joined them after dying in childbirth.

It had a great impact as each individual told their take on being there: Joy Van Camp (Mrs. Gibbs) and Warren Baehr (Simon Stimson) were two of those, the latter there by choice. Others in that memorable scene were Shannon Kelley, Ernest Pugh, Carolyn Haugen and Gene Bornholdt.

For me, the most touching scene was when Lauren Sands playing Emily, the beautiful young daughter of Mr. Webb (Bo Turnage), finally gets her neighbor, young jock George Gibbs (Darvis Taylor) to admit his romantic interest in her. This simple love story is the central part on which the plot is based.

Sands, new to the island since September, graduated from the Portland Actors Conservatory in 2007. Her local debut was a great success. We look forward to her continued participation. Turnage and Patti Bair (as Dr. Webb’s wife) also rate accolades.

The only disappointment was the size of the audience Friday night … about 35, I’d guess. I certainly hope it was fear of ice that kept people away. The reason these folks deserved a standing ovation was that their performance was flawless despite facing such a small crowd.

This is a show written by the same playwright who gave us “Bridge of San Luis Rey,” “The Ides of March” and many others. It’s produced, directed and performed locally at one of the best theaters I’ve seen in the 49 of our 50 states I’ve visited. It costs a pittance compared to Broadway, thanks to sponsorship by business partners like King’s Market and help from the San Juan Historical Society, Demeter Bakery, Friday Harbor Fire Department Thrift House, Consignment Treasures and donors to the theater.

Let’s get together with our friends, families including kids and call 378-1502 for tickets to one of those last four performances. You will love it. And you will love the lobby exhibit with photos and artifacts from our early years in Friday Harbor 100 years ago.

Go with the F.L.O.W. (Ferry Lovers Of Washington).

— Contact Howard Schonberger at 378-5696 or hschonberger@sanjuanjournal.com.