A handful of Chicago company members return for the New York City run, mixed in with resident New York actors to create a surprisingly large-cast (24!) production for the intimate confines of the 153-seat Barrow Street, which has been gutted and reconfigured as a three-quarter venue with two rows of on-stage seating.
As he did in Chicago, director Cromer plays the unaffected, businesslike Stage Manager character, who introduces and guides us through the meta-theatrical three-act tale of 13 years in the life of a New Hampshire hamlet called Grover's Corners. Daily life, love and marriage, and death are its three rueful chapters.
Why was this American classic, sometimes viewed (or performed) as quaint and sentimental, so critically acclaimed in 2008? For starters, the performers are in modern-dress street clothes. And, the action weaves in and around the audience, with house lights often ablaze.
And then there is a breathtaking directorial flourish in Act Three that shocks devotees of the play. Giving it away here would spoil the surprise. It's probable you've never seen a more immediate and personal production of the play.
Off-Broadway previews began Feb. 17. To read Playbill.com's Brief Encounter Q&A interview with director Cromer, Click Here. In addition to Cromer, the cast includes Jeremy Beiler as Sam Craig, Rob Beitzel as Howie Newsome, Kati Brazda as Mrs. Webb, George Demas as Constable Warren, Donna Jay Fulks (of the Chicago run) as Mrs. Soames, Jennifer Grace (of the Chicago run) as Emily, Wilbur Edwin Henry as Professor Willard, Adam Hinkle (of the Chicago run) as Joe Crowell, James McMenamin as George, Jeff Still as Doc Gibbs, Ken Marks as Editor Webb, Jonathan Mastro (of the Chicago run) as Simon Stimson, Seamus Mulcahy as Wally Webb, Lori Myers (of the Chicago run) as Mrs. Gibbs, Jay Russell as Joe Stoddard and Jason Yachanin as Si Crowell.
Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian, Tom Wirtshafter, Ted Snowdon, Eagle Productions, LLC, Dena Hammerstein/Pam Pariseau, The Weinstein Company and Burnt Umber Production are producing.
The physical production, as indicated in the script by Wilder, has always been bare-bones and highly presentational. Our Town won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1938 and is one of the best-known American plays of the 20th century. It charts the range of human experience in a tale of two families in small-town Grover's Corners, NH, "just across the Massachusetts line," between 1901-13.
Not hindered by a proscenium, the action now "takes place in, among and around the audience, creating an intimacy between actors and audience and a powerful encounter with the play's searching questions about family, community and mortality," according to the producers.
This production marks the official debut collaboration between Jean Doumanian Productions and Barrow Street Theatre, who recently announced a creative partnership "to bring innovative works and artists to Off-Broadway."
The creative team for Our Town features Michele Spadaro (set design and props), Alison Siple (costume design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design), Jonathan Mastro (original music and music direction). The production stage manager is Richard A. Hodge.
Cromer, who directed last season's acclaimed musical, Adding Machine, will make his Broadway directing debut next season with Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound.
The performance schedule for Our Town is Tuesday–Friday at 7:30 PM, Saturday at 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM, Sunday at 2:30 PM & 7:30 PM. Tickets are priced at $69 & $40 (for on-stage seating), and available through smarttix (212) 868-4444, www.smarttix.com, or at the Barrow Street Theatre box office (open at 1 PM daily), 27 Barrow Street off Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village.
For more information visit ourtownoffbroadway.com or barrowstreettheatre.com.
For the record, this production is inspired by the 2008 Hypocrites Theatre production of Our Town at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago. Sean Graney is artistic director of Hypocrites.