By Kirby Neumann-Rea • Of the News-Register • 

Letter to Readers: ‘Our Town’ addresses the question of what’s still left to learn

The McMinnville High School production of “Our Town” is an evening well spent. As someone who has performed in the play three times, I know that the Thornton Wilder classic is a tremendously existential play, which raises the question: can teenagers get the themes — that is, communicate them on stage?

After seeing it, I feel the actors captured the uncertainty of youth and the gravity of aging, and did a fine job of carrying out the expansive themes.

My intention is not to review the play but I will say that the key parts of teenagers George and Emily are difficult ones and were handled well. Director Dani Potter made the interesting choice of dividing the large role of Stage Manager among three actors. Stage Manager introduces, explains and philosophizes directly to the audience, and plays several small roles as well. The actors captured the seams and nuances, the humor and depth in the many messages conveyed by the Stage Manager of “our growing up, our marrying, our living, and our dying.”

I wasn’t sure how well the tag-team approach would work, but it does.

I was first in “Our Town” in 1976 as a high school senior, in the small part of milkman Howie Newsome. It was a good experience, but it was only when reintroduced to the play years later that I looked back and wondered if I had known to portray Howie as a middle-aged man? Not sure I “got it.”

In 2006, in Hood River, my wife and I took the roles of Editor Webb and Mrs. Webb, in keeping with the meta-casting of people from the community in those roles on stage. It was my first time in a play since 1980 at Linfield and it led to numerous theater parts — including a reprise of “Our Town” in 2019.

Performing this play remains a deeply meaningful experience for me, because of its significant commentary on how we live our lives. Even after appearing in it twice as an adult. I still ask myself if I “get” those themes,

Yes, “Our Town” at Mac High is a high school production, and so you will see occasional lapses in projection, pace and polish. But not many. The Mac High production effectively conveys the questions of what life means, and our place in the universe. It also accomplishes the challenge of helping adults appreciate life lessons they have learned, and ones yet to learn.

The play concludes this weekend; see Events Calendar for details.

Kirby Neumann-Rea
Managing Editor


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