by Dalia Wolfson
When you first come to the Barrow Street Theater, it seems a little shabby. But just wait a while, until the lights go down, and a man with bright, searching eyes enters the room. He is the Stage Manager (a character, not tech person) and he holds a glowing cell phone. You've probably already extinguished yours, but sit quietly and wait for him to talk, not into the phone, but to you. Because once the Stage Manager begins to speak, he will conjure up a whole county within several square feet. Grover's Corners of the early twentieth century will materialize in front of your eyes, filling the theater, with pulsating air.
The Stage Manager directs the audience through the childhood, adolescence, and brief adulthood and marriage of Emily Webb and George Gibbs. Their relationship is sweet, like a sort of simple sugar, with a proposal over cherry soda. Eventually, that sugar of life will heat up, turn to caramel, and finally to carbon ashes.
The final act, in particular, brings an added dimension to the story (including a stunning surprise), making the audience reconsider life and the monotony of daily routines. Playwright Thorton Wilder reminds us that, too often, we don't pay attention to “clocks ticking...and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up.” The audience is forced to realize that we have an obligation to truly appreciate the beauty of this water, that bird and the sound of heliotrope blossoms in the springtime.
We emerge from the theatre with a new breath. Sigh softly for the comfortable, unconscious world of Grover's Corners, summoned and snapped shut by the Stage Manager's careful words. Director David Cromer has created a masterpiece out of Wilder's script, molding the characters, settings and speech into a little microcosm that provides a patch of warmth on a cold autumn evening.
So when it is time to leave this town and enter the next one, our planet, make sure you're not just acting. For Pete's sake, live, breathe and be Wilder. Now more than ever, the earth needs an encore.
HOW TO SEE THE SHOW: $20 student rush. Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow St.