This sacred text of the American theater is up there with Death of a Salesman as one of the heavyweight contenders for the Great American Play, one of those shows that someone somewhere is performing every night. It’s a sharp work, both in its witty satire and in its cynical bitterness. The play is narrated by the Stage Manager, a character who reappears throughout the play to walk the audience through scene changes, time transitions and themes. It’s a work of minimal theater, with no real props and only chairs and tables for scenery. It is telling, I think, how surprising all of this remains in our modern theater; one can only imagine how all this fourth-wall breaking felt in 1938. Our Town is essentially the birth of black-box theater but, for all the black-box theater we’ve all seen over the years, both good and bad, Our Town still feels fresh and surprising. For the creation of the Stage Manager alone, Our Town deserves to go down in theatrical history; he begins as an affable presence in the play, but by the third act, he, like the play itself, achieves something like cosmic significance in the third act, which is a masterpiece of theatrical staging. Wilder was probably right when he said that the play had almost never been performed correctly and he’s probably spinning in his grave more now than ever, but it’s still a play that should be seen and read. Studied, dissected and loved as well, come right down to it. It’s not Wilder’s best work in my opinion, but it’s astoundingly great for certain. 4 stars.
tl;dr – landmark text of American theater holds up wonderfully; a sharp, incisive, beautiful piece of writing that deserves its iconic status. 4 stars.