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A visit to Grover's Corners

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A visit to Grover's Corners Image courtesy Orono Community Theatre Facebook page
Orono Community Theatre presents 'Our Town'

ORONO Here in Maine, we tend to have an inherent understanding of small-town life the pros and the cons alike. So it makes sense that a play like Thornton Wilder's 'Our Town' would resonate with area audiences.

Orono Community Theatre is giving us a chance to experience that resonance firsthand with their production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The show runs from November 29 to December 2 at the Keith Anderson Community Center in Orono. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students and seniors.

'Our Town' offers a look at the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire in the early years of the 20th century. It is a sweetly sleepy place, populated by salt-of-the-earth folks who are as stolidly solid as the granite underpinnings of the land on which they live. It's a snapshot of a simpler time; a time without hustle and bustle, a time when front doors were always unlocked and people knew all of their neighbors.

The story is steered by the narration of the Stage Manager (Michael Cloutier), a figure both of and outside the world of the play. He is the one who introduces us to the people of Grover's Corners. Our focus is on two families; the Gibbs family and the Webb family.

Town doctor Frank Gibbs (Anthony Severance) and his wife Julia (Rachyl Coakley) are raising two children, George (Will Martin) and Rebecca (Elsa Joliffe-Sanders). Next door are Charles Webb (Randy Hunt), publisher of the town paper, and his wife Myrtle (Elaine Bard), who are raising two kids of their own Emily (Jessie Walker) and Wally (Quinn Bard).

Over the course of three acts, we watch as the relationship between George and Emily grows from childhood friendship into teenaged romance and on into marriage. All the while, we see small-town characters popping up all around them. There's milkman Howie Newsome (Jason Wilkes) with his ever-present cow Bessie. There's the drunken church organist and choir leader Simon Stimson (Matt Dube). You've got paperboy Joe Crowell (Erin Luthin), patrolling policeman Constable Warren (Bill Walker) and the gossipy Mrs. Soames (Kim Meyerdierks) as well as a wealth of choir singers, ballplayers and assorted townspeople.

And through it all, we have the Stage Manager, our guide as we take a tour of this tiny New Hampshire town.

The relationship between George and Emily is the foundation; Martin and Walker are the blushingly sweet and awkward picture of young love. There's an undeniable earnestness to their interactions that never feels less than genuine and honest. Cloutier proves to be an amiable narrator as he smoothly shepherds the audience through space and time as the Stage Manager, commanding the stage or easing out of the spotlight as the situation demands.

Of course, one of the lovely things about 'Our Town' is the ensemble nature of the piece. While certain characters might carry more of the focus, each and every member of the cast brings something vital to the stage. Every one of them has their moment and each moment is an important contribution to the whole. The Gibbs family, the Webb family, the population at large every one of them adds something important.

The truth is that every resident of Grover's Corners is vital to the elaborate tapestry of the tale being told; the play is like an heirloom quilt - each individual square tells a story, and if any square is missing, that story remains incomplete. Director Sandy Cyrus has done a wonderful job assembling this quilt; each of the pieces fits together as it should, resulting in a sweetly rendered rendition of a small town's soul.

'Our Town' is a story of the connections between us, the ties that bind a community. The ensemble of Orono Community Theatre has brought that community to life. Their Grover's Corners is well worth a visit.

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