Thornton Wilder, the celebrated novelist-turned-playwright, didn’t name his most celebrated dramatic work My Town or The Town. He called it Our Town, and he used the play to simultaneously question and affirm American values and traditions. The characters who inhabit the fictional town of Grover’s Corners find delight in simple things like sunsets and chocolate sodas, and collectively they manage a range of commonplace personal tragedies, from a burst appendix to alcoholism and suicide. Time, the tenacious, fast-moving trickster of Wilder’s imagination, also plagues the inhabitants of Grover’s Corners. Nobody, not even the even-tempered stage manager with his trusty watch, seems to be able to gauge the rapidity with which time moves.
Bennett Wood, among the best-known elder statesmen of Memphis theater, takes on the role of the stage manager in this scenery-free play, with nothing but chairs, ladders, umbrellas, and simply spoken words.
Our Town debuted to universal praise in 1938 as unemployment skyrocketed and rations of hope were in short supply. It has never gone out of fashion.