Another Milestone in Grover's Corners

PlayBlog   Another Milestone in Grover's Corners
Thornton Wilder's abiding Americana, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town, ran almost a year — 336 performances — in its original Broadway gig, returned four more times (the last time with Paul Newman "stage-managing") and become a film, a TV and stage musical, a regional staple and, arguably, the definitive high-school play.

Director David Cromer’s current acclaimed Off-Broadway revival will become the longest-running Our Town of 'em all on Dec. 16, racking up Performance No. 337.

An invited audience will take in the historic performance, followed by a celebratory post-show presentation in which Wilder’s nephew, Tappan Wilder, and various cast members will read passages from "Collected Letters by Thornton Wilder." One particularly touching letter was written by Wilder to his accountant the day after the play opened to ecstatic reviews and unprecedentedly long lines at the box office.

Jason Butler Harner replaced Cromer as the play's narrating stage manager earlier this year.

Sam Wood's movie version, which was Oscar-nominated for Best Picture of 1940, had a screenplay by Wilder, Harry Chandlee and the original-and-movie stage manager, Frank Craven. (Alert: spoiler ahead!) All, apparently, were powerless to prevent producer Sol Lesser from forcing a happy Hollywood ending on the property — one that pretty effectively knocks out and nullifies the whole third act: Emily lives!

"Emily should live," Wilder wrote years later, rationalizing this Lesser route. "In the theatre, people are halfway abstractions in an allegory; in the movie, they are concrete. Insofar as the play is a generalized allegory, she dies-we die-they die; insofar as it's a concrete happening, it's not important she die; it is disproportionately cruel she die. Let her live — the idea will have been imparted anyway."


— Harry Haun

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