Our Town is every town

Posted: April 15, 2019 in Uncategorized
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I was pleased to recently attend another presentation of the now classic stage play Our Town written by Thornton Wilder. As you know, the sparseness of this play makes it rich. And the running commentary by the Stage Manager actually interprets the normality of life in its bigger view. There are portions of the three act play that always bring me to tears, mostly in the closing act that pulls no punches in bringing the stark reality of mortality and eternity to the fore.

The Stage Manager warns us early on that however intrigued we might be with day-to-day life in Grover’s Corners and refrains of love and marriage, more somber themes are on the way. He wasn’t kidding. Up to the cemetery we go where the dead are “weaned away from the world” step by step.

The living can’t grasp the meaning of life until it’s gone and they sure can’t grasp eternity, not fully, though, as the Stage Manger says, “everybody in their bones knows that something is eternal.”

But it is Emily, dead too early, who captures the longing for life unobserved and missed when she looks back one last time. Her monologue is the nut of the play, and one sentence stands out more than any other:

“Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover’s Corners. Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking. and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? – every, every minute?

And we lean in and listen to the answer of the Stage Manager, our resident philosopher: “No. The saints and poets, maybe—they do some.”

After Emily returns and takes her place in the company of those who have crossed over, darkness falls over Grover’s Corners and the Stage Manager helps us, one more time, to see how the ordinary turns under the aspect of eternity. After noting the time, the way we finite creatures understand time, he speaks to us and says,  “Hm…Eleven o’clock in Grover’s Corners…You get a good rest, too. Good night.”

Do we get a good night’s rest? The saints and poets, maybe.

Is this an Easter story? Part of it? Or larger than it?

Think about that as you watch the close of Act 3 in the Lincoln Center production with actress Penelope Ann Miller.

 

 

Comments
  1. Don Lanier says:

    “Our Town” — wow, powerful stuff. I seem to remember breezing through it once in college. Now, when I’m nearly 85 it packs quite a wallop. Thanks.

  2. Christy Jones says:

    Tim, this is a wonderful description of “Our Town!” I am grateful that you and your wife could attend our production yesterday! We aren’t a professional troupe, by any means. But if we could bring tears to people’s eyes and help them consider what is truly important, I believe we accomplished a worthy goal!

  3. Audrey Spieler says:

    Great review, Tim. It is impossible to grasp the beauty of this life, all its glory, all its connections, it’s depth and breadth. Thanks for reminding me to try.

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