Hampden’s Our Town

Last night, I attended the second showing of the first play ever to be produced at Hampden Academy’s Performing Arts Center. I did not attend Hampden Academy but I went to the ‘old’ Hampden a few times, primarily for math team visits. I was shocked by how amazing the new Arts Center was. This Center is state of the art. I’ve been a big fan of the Gracie Theater at Husson University for years and it kills me to say this but this Center is better.

‘Our Town’ was written by Thorton Wilder in 1938. The play won a Pulitzer when it was performed on Broadway. The play is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary.  I remember reading ‘Our Town’ and watching a dramatization of the play during my senior year of high school. It was one of the last assignments from my English class. I remember that I enjoyed the play.

For anybody who hasn’t heard of this play, the Stage Manager-who serves as the narrator-tells the story of a fictional tiny town in New Hampshire called Grover’s Corners. The story tells of George Gibbs and Emily Webb, a couple who falls in love. The first act tells of how daily life in the town, the second act focuses on the wedding of George and Emily and I’m not going to give away the third act because that would be inconsiderate.

First the bad: Okay, it’s a high school performance. Stuttering on lines is alright. But I think one thing they should have realized is how big the auditorium and the new stage are. I was sitting in the third row and some of the actors didn’t carry their voice long enough so it was a little hard to hear in places. But, really these are nitpicks. A bigger problem I had with this play is that it had very few props. I felt that they could have done more. The paper boy could have at least had some newspapers.

The good: I am very pleased to say I was impressed with the acting of several of the leading actors. Megan Morin, who played Emily Webb, the leading female character, gave an incredible performance in the third act. Ethan Casavant, who portrayed George Gibbs, gave a great performance as well. One of the things I realized about this play is how well it came together. For instance, after the first act, I was feeling slightly underwhelmed. I was also pleased by Edward Albert’s portrayal of Howie Newsome, the town’s milkman. One thing I realized about this play is how much it is foreshadowing my life. My cousin will be getting married next summer and the play started hitting close to home in the middle of the second act. Morgan Springer as the Stage Manager also put in a good performance.

I have seen three high school plays that I can honestly remember. First, in my senior year, I saw John Bapst’s portrayal of Beauty and the Beast. Last year, I saw John Bapst’s version of Grease. Now that I have seen what Hampden can do, this is how I would rank it. It is a bit harder to rank Our Town because it was not a musical, but I will give it a try. Hampden’s portrayal of Our Town was very good. It was not anywhere near as good as Beauty and the Beast was, but was a lot better than the rushed version of Grease I sat through last year. If you haven’t seen the play yet, I would recommend it. My showing was not even 3/4 full and I find that very disappointing. This play is better than that. The show starts again tonight at 7:00 at the Hampden Academy Performing Arts Center.