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Review: 'Our Town' at Actors' Gang

May 7, 2009 | 12:30 pm

Our Town The jury’s still out on “Our Town”: Is it a high school staple for a reason, or a victim of sentimentalists? The new production of Thornton Wilder’s 1937 classic at the Actors’ Gang doesn’t exactly settle that question. Clocking in at nearly three hours, Justin Zsebe’s staging showcases what’s best and worst about both Wilder and the Gang: passion, experiment and the distracting tendency to comment on a scene instead of just playing it.

On a wooden stage with period footlights, Grover’s Corners, N.H., comes to brisk, small town life. Howie Newsome (Pierre Adeli) delivers the milk, Doc Gibbs (Nathan Kornelis) brings twins into the world, and his son, George (Chris Schultz), falls for Emily (Vanessa Mizzone), the brainy girl next door.

There are affecting, unfussy performances from the cast, including Kornelis as the matter-of-fact Gibbs, Annemette Andersen as his sacrificing wife and Lindsley Allen as Emily’s disappointed mother. Other takes — like Scott Harris as a shy professor and the town constable — feel indulgent rather than insightful. I’m all for messing with a masterpiece, but “Town”s gossamer style can’t sustain twee self-consciousness.

The evening’s strongest moments come at a hillside cemetery in the third act, where Will Pellegrini’s arresting set design beautifully supports Wilder’s lyricism. Emily, caught between the quick and the dead, gives voice to mortality’s deepest ache — to love life, yet feel its transience. Bring tissues.

-- Charlotte Stoudt

Our Town,” Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. 8 pm. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 30. $20-$25. (310) 838-GANG. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.

Caption: Lindsley Allen, left, and Chris Schultz in "Our Town." Credit: Jean-Louis Darville