I had heard about Thornton Wilder's Our Town several times in the past. After hearing about it again in one of Fr. Danny Huang's sermons at Christ the King Church more than a year ago though, I was more determined to see the play. My husband and I, actually agreed to catch the next staging of the play, wherever that might be.
Our Town is now being staged by Repertory Philippines. It will be showing at the William Shaw Theater until March 11, after which you can catch it at the Carlos P. Romulo Theater, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Avenue cor. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City. At the RCBC Plaza it will run from March 15-25.
Our Town is all about life and people living in Grover's Corners, New Hampshire. Throughout the three-part play, we learn details about the town, the families and individuals who live there, love and marriage, and life and death.
Technically and acting-wise, as expected of a Repertory play, everything runs smoothly. My husband and I particularly liked the transition of the Stage Manager from old to young, the taking of the wedding photograph, and the drawing of the audience into the play or story by having other actors play their roles off-stage.
The start was kind of slow. In fact, I found it quite boring, I fell asleep every now and then. In between naps, I caught bits and pieces of conversation which did not really appeal to me except for one particular line where Joy Virata's character states: "I'd rather have children who are healthy than bright." Throughout the first part, I was feeling kind of guilty for coming to watch the play. I even apologized to my husband for spending P400 for two balcony tickets. While I was bored, my husband was asking himself silently though, "Why are they showing all this detail?" I even dared say: "The ending had better be good! Why is this considered a classic? Because no one dared say it sucks."
Mercifully, the play picks up in mid-stream when it talks about Love and Marriage. "Life is meant to be lived two by two." "You've got to love life to have life. You've got to have life to love life." These are some of the messages the play highlights so I was hooked. Like did you ever realize that saying that the "sun had risen a thousand times" would mean the same as about 3 years? Or that being together for 50 years means a couple would have shared about 50,000 meals? Quite mind-boggling, wouldn't you agree?
The play's high (and best) point though comes in the third part when Emily (one of the principal characters) dies and goes to the after-life. Not being used to "being dead," she pines to return to her old life. If you don't want to have any idea about the ending, please skip the next two paragraphs. Otherwise, read on and discover why this play is a classic and why it should be seen by every living soul.
Those who have gone ahead of Emily, then, dissuade her from going back to her earthly life for it will be too painful. She goes back nonetheless and chooses her 12th birthday as the occasion that she would like to return to. As Mrs. Gibbs (one of those who had died ahead of Emily) said: "Choose an unimportant day. It will be important enough."
So Emily sees her parents and feels great excitement about everything she sees. She comments that she never realized that "her mother looked so young." Her parents go about their usual routine, with Emily trying to be part of it all again and failing. She then says the play's strongest line (to me, at least) and I don't know if I remembered it accurately but referring to life, Emily says: "Does anyone really realize you while they live it?'
So, I suddenly realized (and in tears) why the play was a classic. With a very simple story and a very slow start, it was able to make an important point. As we go through life, sometimes, or even often, we fail to appreciate things around us. We miss or dismiss the importance of seemingly small things taking place. We think things are boring or slow or that life sucks when each day is just meant to be lived to the max.
It's funny but the way my husband and I reacted to the first part of the play is quite characteristic of how we are in daily life. My husband does things more deliberately or slowly, taking time to look at things, notice faces, and chat with people. He knows when something is off. I, on the other hand, don't attend too much to details which are unimportant, choosing to take care of things which on the surface, quite obviously, count.
Well, for P200 per head, we have discovered what it possibly feels like to be dead and have been reminded to love life and all the small and seemingly mundane things which come with it. So see the play for yourself and get an attitude change. Your life will be richer for it.
In my slumber, I awake.
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Our Town: Everybody's Town
Written March 7, 2001
Copyright © 2001 by Angelica Bautista Viloria of http://www.viloria.com