“Our Town” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ May 13, 2013


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Back in 1938 when Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” premiered, its simple telling of turn-of-the-century life in Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, earned the playwright a Pulitzer Prize.  At that time, the play personified small town American life.

Today the classic play is usually only performed in badly staged high school productions.  Polished professional productions rarely occur.  “Our Town” is an odd choice for musical-theater-oriented Phoenix Theatre but they deliver a commendable production featuring many of our area’s best performers.  The cast creates touching characterizations of the two featured families and other townspeople who figure in the impending marriage between teenagers Emily Webb and George Gibbs.

The now sappy tale, while honest and heartfelt, tells about lives that are no longer real.  The piece has become an interesting glimpse into American history but the story lumbers as it discusses George and Emily’s doubts about marriage and making a life commitment.  When the play debuted and during the play’s time period, 1901 to 1913, this was the American way.

It’s rare to see “Our Town” done by such distinguished performers who each craft rich and ingratiating character portraits.  Standouts include Jenny Hintze’s touching Emily and Robert Anthony Peters’ emotional George.  The play’s last act set in the town’s graveyard after Emily died in childbirth shows George’s emotional farewell.  Yes, even this hardened critic couldn’t keep his eyes dry.  The play is manipulative but these two exemplary performances are really touching.

But there are other fine performances including Dion Johnson’s stalwart take on Emily’s father and Debby Rosenthal as Emily’s sensible mother.  Ben Tyler as George’s father, Dr. Gibbs, and Shari Watts as the boy’s mother have believable discussions with their son that help him mature quickly into the young husband he becomes.  There are fine performances as crazy Grover’s Corners’ characters like Alan Ruch as the drunken church organist Simon Stimson, David Vining as the conflicted Constable and the all-knowing Professor, Maria Amorocho as Mrs. Soames, the town busybody, and Joseph Kramer in two small roles.  Keeping the whole play together is Mike Lawler’s Stage Manager who, as the play’s narrator, explains town nuances to the audience.

Watching over everything is director Pasha Yamotahari who instills the loving simplicity of the time, the town, and the people in his cast.  While there aren’t faults in Phoenix Theatre’s “Our Town,” it doesn’t play as brightly today as it did when it premiered 75 years ago.  It continues through May 19.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade:  A for the production

             C for the play

2 Responses to ““Our Town” – Phoenix Theatre”

  1. Steve Schemmel said:

    May 15, 13 at 23:06

    Chris: Did I miss something? Just came from seeing OUR TOWN. Didn’t see George at all in the final act. ???

  2. Chris Curcio said:

    May 18, 13 at 14:56


    Yes, George shows up at Emily’s gravesite and is quite emotional over her death in childbirth. Not sure why you didn’t see this touching scene unless Phoenix Theatre changed the production and I sincerely doubt that. This comment concerns me. Did you attend the production with anyone who might remember the scene. It was truly a crying moment for me. Everytime I’ve seen “Our Town” this is the ending I have ALWAYS seen. It was just so well done in this production that I felt I had to mention it. Please let me know what happened.