In the days of commercial overload, it was thrilling inside my unconventional little soul to see something so experimental as the production of Our Town I saw last night at the bold, daring, unexpected theatre company St. Petersburg has grown to know and love called freeFall. Eric Davis, in his compelling manner to always remind you that anything you see at freeFall will never quite be the way you expected it (even if you’ve known and seen a piece a handful of times) has done it again. For this production of Our Town was laden with modern dance, almost reminiscent of when I studied Japanese Noh drama in college, in the sense that the use of stylized gestures illuminate a deeper understanding into the soul of each carefully crafted character we meet. In a play that explores the beauty of mundanity and ritual, choreographer Leann Alduenda’s dance allowed that notion to flow through the black box with an energy of uniformity that in the modern day of political debate; you couldn’t help feeling united to our fellow human beings going through this nutty thing called life.
To speak on the nature of sameness, I would like to applaud Davis for his exquisite use of color-conscious casting. I look forward to the day where I don’t have to mention this because it’s expected on every stage in any play, however while racial equality, especially in the arts, is at a moment of new awakenings, I take a moment to mention the beauty of seeing many raced actors take the stage as family.
I was most taken by Bob Devin Jones in the role of the Stage Manager. I’ve often seen this role performed in perhaps a more boisterous ring-leader fashion, and Jones’ laid back omnipresence was a soothing breath of fresh air; he didn’t have to convince anybody that he was in character. I don’t normally make celebrity comparisons because I don’t want to suggest in any way that I believe someone famous suggests that they are better performers, but I will say there was something Morgan Freeman-like in his narrative tone. After a few hours of Jones’ story telling, it was easy to tuck in for a good night’s sleep.
The other actor I’d like to touch on (and if I didn’t, I’d be quite worried) was Sarah Beittner’s honest and compelling Emily. Alongside the sweet, crushable George (played geniously) by Taylor Simmons, Beittner’s superb twisting of vulnerability and wisdom was something we, the audience, allowed ourselves to get completely wrapped up in until tears were squeezing themselves from our eyes. Talk about a girl who is in her element on stage.
It was an interesting production all around, and even the audiences who found its style uncomfortable would probably agree that the disconnect they felt was more due to their personal lack of exposure to such entertainment far more than a true dislike. I sincerely hope you take the time to make it down to freeFall and let this beautiful cast take you to down to Grover’s Corners for a few short hours, you may just learn something about yourself.
Our Town runs until February 14.
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