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Silverdale's CSTOCK unfolds ordinary life in weighty, stirring 'Our Town'
The long-running, well-known stage drama “Our Town” runs this month and next at Silverdale’s CSTOCK. The unconventionally written play — which in itself has become a stage tradition, appearing in innumerable productions throughout the country — prompts its audience to question their awareness of life on Earth and will show weekends at the Silverdale Community Center theater.
“Our Town,” written in the late 1930s by Thornton Wilder, is a kind of ode to everyday life; its author disregards the fourth wall, speaking directly to his audience through the Stage Manager, who recounts the lives of ordinary Americans in fictional Grover’s Corners, 1901.
“Do human beings realize life while they live it?” asks character Emily, of the Stage Manager, near the play’s end.
“Saints and poets,” he says slowly, “maybe they do some.”
Women in plain-colored, billowing frocks and men in plaid vests and wool trousers move about on stage, backed by a blue-gray mural, the existence of Grover’s Corners painted in just a few singular hues, with soft, muted lines.
The set consists mainly of chairs and tables, done sparsely by Wilder’s command, explained Erin Mckiernan, the play’s real-life stage manager.
“It was the atmosphere that Wilder was going for, it’s organic,” she said.
Imagined are the kitchens, where Grover’s Corners mothers place bread in the oven; the Webb’s garden full of sunflowers and a lone butternut tree; horse Bessie, who so loyally accompanies Howie Newsome, the milk man, as he delivers goods to homes in each of the play’s three acts.
“We’ll bring out some trellises for those who feel they need scenery,” the Stage Manager says in an early monologue. It’s a brief moment of comedy in a play long taken seriously, though director Albert Guerra said there is humor to be found.
“People read it in grammar school, in high school and in college, and it changes each time,” he said, explaining the timeless value of a story that constantly reveals new layers. Guerra said he looked for actors willing to try a new approach, and created a 21-person ensemble able to infuse fresh expression and interpretation into their respective roles.
Kimberly Kullberg plays Emily, a central character who transforms through “Our Town,” from a young school girl in the first act, to a woman getting married in the second, to finally, in the third act, a mother who died during childbirth and must watch life move on without her.
“I can’t look at everything hard enough,” she says, while ghosting the memory of her childhood home, ticking off the things she’ll miss: the tick-tock of clocks, her mother’s sunflowers, hot baths, food.
“It’s a neat buildup,” said Kullberg, 27, about the wide-arching Emily. “It’s a really cool role, because most aren’t that way.”
Trained operatic singer Friedrich Schlott lends his talents to the Stage Manager, creating the movement of the play, introducing each act and standing in for other townspeople as Emily and George Gibbs grow up. He’s got a lot to remember, with a handful of lengthy asides that earned Wilder a pulitzer and made “Our Town” a classic.