Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Review: Our Town (play by Wilder) at CUA

Two (belated) reviews at the same time? Lucky you!

Last week marked the 2008 President's Festival of the Arts at The Catholic University of America. This week-long series featured film screenings, lectures, and musical performances, culminating in productions of both Thornton Wilder's classic play Our Town and the DC premiere of the opera Our Town by Ned Rorem.

The two productions - the play and the opera - had much in common. They shared essentially the same set, scenes, and script (though necessarily abridged and revised for the opera). Yet the purely dramatic and emotional impact of the two versions did not match up so neatly. (See next post, coming soon.)

The play, directed by Mary Hall Surface, was one very fine production among many others worldwide this year. If it seemed a bit more campy than most (or, as campy as Wilder can be), this is likely because it was presented by CUA's musical theater department rather than the drama department.

Sarah Beth Pfeifer was engaging and believable as the stage manager, who carries a large share of the lines. Emily Woodhouse and Matthew Wojtal made an endearing and lovable couple as Emily and George Gibbs, even if their deliveries were a tad too conscious of the play's "old-time" feel.

Editor Webb, played by Peter Camp, gave a strong supporting performance. Colleen Connor nearly stole the wedding scene as a sobbing, vociferous Mrs. Soames. This choice brought a powerful contrast to the more subdued character of the third act, but it could have detracted from a less colorful production.

This staging of Our Town provides yet more evidence that the musical theater department at Catholic this year is active and robust as always. The production also served as an excellent introduction/refresher for (and comparison with) its operatic counterpart. (see next post, above)

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