Miami New Drama, Miami Beach's resident theatre company, has taken the illustrious “Our Town” and, with brilliant casting, acting and direction, presented Thornton Wilder's masterpiece as the humanity of life in Miami. And of the globe.
On the surface, it's a telling of life in a small New England town, Grover's Corner, in 1901, and the emotions revealed in the three acts are universal. Director Michel Hausmann's multicultural and multilingual casting pins the the show to the polyglot streets of Miami, making “Our Town” just as relevant today as in 1938.
When the house opens, the actors are milling around on stage, singing at a piano.
The Stage Manager, played by veteran Broadway actor Keith Randolph Smith, breaks the fourth wall, guiding the audience through the three acts, introducing and commenting on the two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs and the various town characters. He describes the scenery, the buildings, the weather. And the relationships. We meet the paper boy, the milk man, the town constable, the town drunk.
Robert Strain is Dr. Gibbs, undoubted master of his family. His wife, played by Chantal Jean-Pierre, is overworked, and in desperate need of a holiday. George, their 16 year old son, played by Martin K. Lewis, loves baseball and, ultimately, Emily Webb, (Thallis Santesteban) daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Webb. Mr. Webb, (Luigi Sciamanna) is editor of the local paper and his wife, played by Carlota Sosa, is the perennial housewife and mother, caring for her unsure daughter.
Act two, and it's three years later with George and Emily's love turning to marriage despite their earlier misgivings.
Nine years later and the money shot is in Act Three, with the Stage Manager introducing the town cemetery. The dead are sitting in rows, their demises described, attended by Steve Gladstone as the undertaker.
“Our Town” is performed on a bare stage with the large cast sitting upstage in mostly silhouette, moving downstage to the two tables and chairs used as the family homes.
Dialogue throughout is in English, Spanish and Creole, with English translations flashed on the upstage white backdrop. The translations are by Miami playwrights Pulitzer prize winner Nilo Cruz and Jeff Augustin.
Six of the seventeen national and international actors are well known in the Miami area: Robert Strain, Stephen G. Anthony, Gabriel Bonilla, Steve Gladstone, Jeni Hacker, and Andy Quiroga.
New York based Martin K. Lewis as George Gibbs is beginning his career. Would that he'd move to Miami. Venezuelan star Luigi Sciamanna brings such delightful life to Mr. Webb that his scenes seem all too short. Thallis Santesteban perfectly captures the growing pains of the young Emily Webb.
It is evident from lights up that every effort has been made to make this “Our Town” worthy of the original. The direction, the scenic design, the lighting, the sound, the music, the costuming, are all of the best.
There's an inherent likeability in “Our Town” and director Michel Hausemann has layered this with a friendliness that extends to inviting the audience to dance on stage during the second intermission. This inclusion works, reinforcing the intimacy of the evening and the humanity of “Our Town.”
Scenic and costume design by Arnulfo Maldonado, lighting design by David Lander, and sound by Sarah Vingerhoedt. Salomon Lerner is the musical director and Tatiana Pandiani is the associate diretor.
Miami New Drama’s “Our Town” runs Oct. 26-Nov. 19 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Fla., 33139. Tickets are $45 to $65. Call 800-211-1414. www.colonymb.org.