Director's 'Our Town' time warp leaves some viewers scratching their heads
By Heather Fredrickson
The classic American tale about love and loss was presented with unusual set production. Unfortunately this viewer, and several others, were left grasping in the dark for something concrete to hold on to during the wild time warp that left them dizzy.
To show the timeless essence of Our Town, Utah State Theatre presented the piece as a rollicking rollercoaster flying through eight decades in only three acts. The only clues to the audience about any time periods were the opening sound bites (including "You've got mail" and "Do you Yahoo?") thrown out while the stage manager/narrator (Mitch Berntson) stood at center stage waiting for it to end before he spoke.
Interacting with both characters and audience, Berntson wore plain black and gray clothing that seemed to blend with any decade. The Mead 5 Star notebook he carried around with him seemed to have no purpose to the story other than give him something to hang on to. When he interacted with the characters in the 1920s, the notebook just didn't work.
The acting was not without its problems as well. The final act was a tearjerker, but those were the only emotions summoned by the otherwise hollow performance by the cast. George and Emily's love for each other was not shown by the actors; it was apparent only through the lines delivered plainly.
Shannon Tyler, in the role of Emily, gave a pretty good performance in the final act, emoting with the best of them, drawing some tears from the audience. But the first two acts saw some insincerity from Tyler. This viewer couldn't tell if Emily was in love or not.
Eric Van Tielen didn't bring much emotion to George Gibbs, either. He made an attractive George, but not a very human one. In the third act, the audience didn't get to see the grief, pain and sorrow that must have been swirling within Geoge's soul, as Van Tielen kept his back to the audience.
Director Anne Berkeley did an OK job with this cast and set, but it
could have been better.