1 Great Play, 2 Wonderful Interpretations
Eric Pregosin | New Carrollton, Maryland United States | 08/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The text of this great play, opens no curtain, no scenery. Despite these revolutionary concepts, after writing Our Town, Thornton Wilder for the stage, he hoped there would eventually be a "definitive performance" for tv viewers to enjoy. In other words, he hated the 1940 box office movie with William Holden. In 1977 he worked along with a team of actors including Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox, Sada Thompson, Barbara Bel Geddes, and (fresh from Ode To Billy Joe) Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor. Although shot in a tv studio, they bent the rules slightly and added a touch of scenery, but it was so slight that it became the Grover's Corners New Hampshire that Wilder imagined. The performance was so good it was nominated for (and just might have won) an Emmy. Wilder died soon after happily, his definitive version made. His estate willed that another version for tv should not be made. Then in 1989, the late lamented Spaulding Grey headed another cast that did their best to remain completely faithful to the play as written. This Broadway performance was nominated for a Tony. A special performance was made for the executors of Wilder's estate who enjoyed it as much as the fore mentioned 1977 performance, that they allowed PBS to tape it for their "Great Performances" series. Since then, both of these showings have been hard to find on video. Now you can get them both in this nice (though pricey) 2 disc set. But trust me, it's worth the bucks. If you really need to "save money", order it from a "Marketplace Client", but buy it anyway. You will not regret it. Then for another very good showing, buy the 2003 PBS/Showtime presentation (on the PBS label) with Paul Newman, etc."
Goodbye Clocks Ticking
C. Bachmann | Studio City, CA United States | 05/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two discs, each with a version of Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town" (originally produced on stage in 1938). There are no extras on the discs, just chapter menu. The packaging tells the story of Wilder's attempt before his death in 1975 to leave behind a definitive version after the film version of 1940 made Emily Webb wake up from a bad dream during childbirth...defeating the purpose of the entire script and giving the ultimate hollywood happy ending.
I saw the televison broadcast of 1977 and always remembered it, in my High School theater passion, as the best television production of any play I'd ever seen. I was familar with the play from English Class but had never seen it brought to life. I had the unfortunate task of returning to theater class to say I thought Robbie Benson was terrific after all. I was always worried throughout the years that it wouldn't hold up if the miracle ever occured that I should be able to see it again.
Well, my friends, it holds up in a grand way! It still makes me whispy and joyful and speaks from the heart while it shoots from the hip. This production walks the line between sentimentality and pure golden innocence with the finest of lines. Thornton's text is delivered with quiet passion and gentle importance. Hal Holbrook as the stage manager is inspired. Glynnis O'Connor captures Emily with the sweetest glee and Robby Benson nails it... the production is right on the money and the team of George Schaefer as director and Saul Jaffe as producer really created an exceptional reality.
The 1988-89 production, directed by Gregory Mosher at the Lincoln Center, goes nowhere near the sentimental line. In fact, much of the warmth is purposefully pulled out creating a dry and quick paced excercise. Don't get me wrong...it's a terrific experience, as it seems to replace the heart of script with the brains of the piece. Mosher has these folks busting though their lines so fast that this production is 15 minutes shorter than the 1977 companion. There is no bigger fan of Spalding Gray than myself. His signature delivery embraces the New English regional syntax while it pulls away from swimming in the blood of the piece. He's taking the pulse of the script, not riding the wave of emotion. Eric Stoltz gives a "city boy's" view of the role. Penelope Ann Miller has some powerful moments...despite a bit of shouting. Frances Conroy is ethereal.
Each of these productions bring out different attributes of the amazing script. They show how deep and rich the script is and why it's the most produced play in America.
If you enjoy this play, you might want to check out the work of Horton Foote (some of which is available on DVD; "Courtship", "On "Valentine's Day" and "1918"
Courtship,1918,On Valentine's Day"