Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
This Our Town gets high marks for creativity, direction, and a celebration of ethnic diversity in America. Although the play is set in a tiny New Hampshire hamlet at the turn of the twentieth century, and most of the character names scream "white bread," in this production the Gibbs and Webb families are anything but. At home, the Webbs converse in Spanish (with easy-to-read subtitles for those of us who need them). The script is unchanged, with the resulting subtext that these are today's typical American families.
There are many creative highlights. In describing the history of the town and its people, the Stage Manager threads his way around the room, drawing our attention to the pictures that decorate the theatre walls, illustrating various scenes from Grover's Corners. Instead of casting children in the roles of the younger siblings, director Heard uses rag dolls manipulated and voiced by puppeteers. When Howie Newsome arrives with his horse-drawn milk wagon, Ruliko Cronin's skilled miming makes us believe in the mulish stubbornness of Howie's horse (aided by the clinking of glass milk bottles, courtesy of onstage sound effects provided by Adam Dunson). As Mr. Webb, Lorenzo Gabaldon convincingly mows an invisible lawn with an invisible mower. And when the women chat while doing chores, they continuously snap their fingers to create the sound of snapping beans. (Maintaining the flow of dialogue while doing this seems comparable to patting your head while rubbing your tummy.) In a nice comic turn by Gigi Guizado, the pace of Mrs. Webb's snapping becomes noticeably more frenzied as her adolescent daughter peppers her with questions converging on the facts of life.
Due to the wide variation in the cast members' skills, there is an uneven quality to the production. However, several performers stand out. Ronn L. Williams has fine stage presence as the Stage Manager, and quietly fades into the background when he is not acting as the narrator. Playing the ingenues, Garrison Quizon as George and Amanda Guardado as Emily are particularly well cast. They are appealingly bright-eyed without becoming saccharine. Adam Dunson is convincing as the morose and drunken choirmaster Simon Stimson. In multiple roles, the chameleon-like Ruliko Cronin demonstrates an impressive skill set. And as Mrs. Gibbs, Bridget Carlvin embodies the brittle warmth shared by decades of fictional mothers, from Ma Joad to Olivia Walton.
Although this production does not reach the heights of Majestic's best work, it successfully embraces Wilder's theme of spiritual transcendence, portraying death not as something to be feared, but as an essential part of the continuing cycle of life.
Our Town, through May 5, 2019, at Majestic Repertory Theatre, 1217 S. Main St., Las Vegas NV. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30, Sundays at 4:30. For tickets, which include dinner ($45 general admission, $35 students), or for further information, visit www.majesticrepertory.com.