The Source for Media Coverage of The Arts in Miami.
Articles, reviews, previews and features on dance and music performances and events.
Sign Up
No one logged in. Log in

'Our Town' Exquisitely Re-Imagined by Miami New Drama


Photo: Thallis Santesteban as Emily and Martin K. Lewis as George are wed by Keith Randolph Smith; Photo: Arnulfo Maldonado
Written by: Christine Dolen
Article Rating

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn.

Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century.

If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably seen a production (or two or three) of Wilder’s metatheatrical drama. Maybe you’ve even been in one. But you have never seen an “Our Town” quite like the exquisite, emotionally potent production Miami New Drama has just opened at the Colony Theatre on Miami Beach.

Without altering the setting (Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire), the time period (1900 to 1913) or the deliberately minimalist presentational style of the play, Miami New Drama artistic director Michel Hausmann has crafted an “Our Town” that hews to his company’s mission – creating work that speaks to and reflects South Florida’s richly diverse 21st century audiences.

In this case, Hausmann got permission from the Wilder estate to allow the translation of certain lines into Spanish, others into Creole. Then he hired Miami Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz to do the Spanish translations and Miami-born, New York-based Jeff Augustin to supply the Creole lines.

The conceit is that the family of newspaper editor Charles Webb speaks Spanish at home, while the family members of town doctor Frank Gibbs often speak to each other in Creole. The vast majority of the play is performed in English, exactly as Wilder wrote it, and the English translation of the lines now spoken in Spanish or Creole is projected on the back wall of the stage (think supertitles in opera), so there is never any confusion about what’s being said.

That may sound like a gimmick designed to stir up interest from a hometown audience, but it most assuredly works on a much deeper level. The language differences give the families a special, specific way of communicating, of underscoring their bonds.You can hear the emotional resonance as the audience responds.

Hausmann and musical director Salomon Lerner also pull a contemporary audience into the play’s world by having the large cast, dressed in period costumes, sing pointed and poignant (yet deliberately anachronistic) selections from such songs as “In My Life,” “Hallelujah” and “Over the Rainbow” before the show begins. And they invite the audience onstage to have a wedding reception dance party with the cast in the break between the second and third acts.

In a play that has always encouraged observers to join in its make-believe, a piece that largely dispenses with scenery and uses sound effects in lieu of props, Miami New Drama’s choices expand the audience engagement.

In casting his “Our Town,” Hausmann has put together a multicultural company of actors from South Florida, New York, Venezuela and top-tier regional theaters, blending his diverse artists into one glorious ensemble.

Keith Randolph Smith, a veteran of a half dozen Broadway productions (including several August Wilson plays), is the Stage Manager, our guide into Wilder’s world. Wearing a guayabera and clutching a panama hat, he speaks to the audience directly, sometimes stepping into the action, most notably to join George Gibbs and Emily Webb in marriage.With his richly resonant voice, sparkling eyes and humorous warmth, Smith becomes a kind of conduit of energy and emotion between the performers and the audience.

Though “Our Town” has a sizable array of characters, the play focuses particularly on George and Emily as they move through those stages of life. Hausmann has found a pair of charismatic, wonderfully skilled young actors to play those key roles. Martin K. Lewis, a tall and strikingly handsome performer with a heart-melting smile, gives us a George who begins as a teenager with a crush and ends as a man whose world is shattered. Thallis Santesteban’s Emily journeys from a bright and focused girl to a woman who embodies the fragility of life.

Chantal Jean-Pierre as Julia Gibbs and Carlota Sosa as Myrtle Webb radiate nose-to-the-grindstone strength as wives and mothers whose dawn-to-nightfall burdens are noted by the Stage Manager. Robert Strain is a cooler father as the hard-working Dr. Gibbs, Luigi Sciamanna an endearingly warm one as Mr. Webb.

In other roles, Stephen G. Anthony brings the sound of New England to his performance as Constable Warren, while Jeni Hacker shines in a pair of funny roles, as the lecturer Professor Willard and the town gossip Louella Soames.Andy Quiroga is haunting as Simon Stimpson, an alcoholic choir director and organist, and Steve Gladstone as undertaker Joe Stoddard represents the strongest connection between the living and the dead.

The fine company also includes Gabriel Bonilla as Sam Craig, Rafael Romero as Howie Newsome, Jayla McQueen as Rebecca Gibbs, Nathalia Martinez as a dead woman, Isaiah Badley as paperboys Joe and Si Crowell, and Lucas Castillo as Wally Webb, whose journey through life will be even more brief than his sister’s.

Arnulfo Maldonado designed the minimalist set and beautifully detailed period costumes, David Lander the full-of-sunset lighting and Sarah Vingerhoedt the intricate soundscape.

In “Our Town,” Wilder has composed a snapshot of a way of life that no longer exists. But the play endures because it is also a timeless template for the way we live, love and suffer loss.Miami New Drama’s glorious “Our Town” brings that template into sharp, engaging relief.

“Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, with Spanish dialogue by Nilo Cruz and Creole dialogue by Jeff Augustin; Miami New Drama production at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 19. Cost: $45-$65. Information:800-211-1414, www.colonymb.org or www.miaminewdrama.org.

 


Leave a comment...
Must be Logged in
No one logged in. Log in
Leave a comment...
Was this helpful?
No Very

Captcha Image

About The writer

{module_webapps,16730,i,{tag_writer_id}}

Promising a night of airiness and ardor, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami will bring “Ballet’s Pointe of Passion” to the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, where the company joins an att..

Great friendships can nurture and prod an artist to make greater work. Think Pablo Picasso and Wifredo Lam, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Such is also the case fo..

It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Mu..

It was only a few decades ago that finding a professional, locally produced performance was an aerobic dance in itself. But after the Miami City Ballet (established 1985), the New World Schoo..

A 50th anniversary calls for gold in celebration. But Balanchine’s “Jewels”­—a sublime marriage of music and choreography from 1967—brings Emeralds, Rubies,and Diamonds. Those pre..

When the Limon Dance Company returns to Miami-Dade this weekend, it brings with it the powerful vision of founder José Limon. He was a man deeply concerned about and connected to the humanity..

When Cardi B, with her trademark no-filter attitude, raps in her recent hit “Bodak Yellow” – Now I don’t got to dance/I make money move – she has something to sing about, with her smash hit N..

Despite a packed show schedule, including performing with the Frankfurt Opera in “Rinaldo,” Sarasota native, dancer and choreographer James McGinn had a chance to discuss the upcoming dance-opera ..

Anniversaries usually celebrate the success of a partnership with symbolic gifts of crystal, china, silver and gold. For the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida, the company celebrates 20 years of..

The songs are familiar; the love story is also familiar but made fresh in “On Your Feet!,” the musical biography that comes to Miami this week. The narrative of Emilio and Gloria Estefan meet..

Dance lovers in Miami know that for the past two decades the International Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) has made the city in September a magnet for the brightest stars in the world of bal..

Orlando Taquechel, dance critic for two decades at the El Nuevo Herald (and now a contributor to Artburst), will have a book signing and discussion of his new book, “La danza in Miami (1998-..

The name Flamenco conjures the machine-gun snap of heels, arms arched overhead, the flick of red fabric and laser-like glares from beneath the starched black brim of a Cordobes hat. At the ed..

Watching Neri Torres rehearse is a study in focus and concentration. She demonstrates each step with an ease developed from years of immersion in the study and performance of Afro-Cuban ..

Miami-based organization Delou Africa has been the ambassador of African dance and drumming in South Florida for the last 30 years. It started as a performing company, and has since expanded..

Miami Beach’s old city hall on a Thursday evening in June made a surreal set up for anyone familiar with tango’s broody scene -- a large cozy room full of cheerful, laughing, and smiling..

When Ballet Flamenco La Rosa takes to the stage this weekend, it will present a program based on traditions which were handed down through the ages. A program filled with the mysteries of fl..

With every great new love, the beginning is a crucible of extremes – will it endure for decades or permanently scar?The program for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami’sJuly 8show, “Fiebre: A N..

With a heightened emphasis on “Noise” as an innovative musical genre, this sixth installment of the Miami Performance Festival International (M/P’17), running June 23 to 25, challenges South..

After 17 years as a principal dancer with the esteemed San Francisco Ballet, dancing every major role and style possible, Lorena Feijoo is retiring from that company to embark on a new journe..

Miami choreographer Marissa Alma Nick is a storyteller. Her company Alma Dance Theater brings a particularly female inner world to the stage, through lush and sensual choreography. Nick’s..

Pools are ubiquitous in Miami. They dot the landscape like Jackson Pollock drip paintings. Residents swim or idle the hours away by or in the pool – and dancers of Momentum Dance Company also perf..

May’s “Mujeres” series of strong, multi-faceted, women-focused productions, commissioned for Miami Theater Center’s SandBox space, concludes with Spanish-born dancer-choreographer Carlota Pr..

One could say that Bistoury’s 305 & Havana International Improv Fest, which debuts this Saturday at Miami Theater Center, has been in the works for almost 20 years. In 1999 Cuban-born cho..

The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity ..

Upcoming this week, Tigertail presents choreographer Myriam Gourfink and musician Kasper Toeplitz. Hailing from France, the two will be present for a 3-day residency at Subtropics’ South Beac..

From her home base at 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, longtime Miami dance figure Brigid Baker has been slowly crafting a new performance piece. It’s not conceptual or political like con..

Late last year, on Dec. 20, 2016, Romero Britto and Mark Bryn hosted the Great Artists Series Cocktail Reception at the Britto Fine Art Gallery to celebrate the legendary impresaria, Judy Dru..

Everyone remembers a lost weekend, binge reading a novel whose ending had to wait because the body just gave out. No matter how compelling the story somewhere around the 30th hour the brain s..

Globalization has produced many stories —not all inspiring. But having a Pakistani ensemble become a worldwide sensation by playing Paul Desmond’s immortal “Take Five,” which pianist Da..

When the management of New York’s iconic Apollo Theater approached drummer Gregg Field last year about organizing a concert there in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth..

They’ve opened a Chanel fashion show in Havana and been featured in Beyoncé’s visual album for “Lemonade.” The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has danced to their music. Their Florida debu..

There are few artists who have had the impact in their disciplines that guitarist Paco De Lucía had in flamenco. There is a before-and-after De Lucía in flamenco. He expanded the harmonic voc..

Yoli Mayor is a 22-year old Miami native who won over the judges of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” with her power voice (think Adele mixed with Etta James). This weekend, Miami audiences will h..

You might expect something a tad unusual from a jazz band comprised of Bulgarians and Cubans that’s led by the principal percussionist of the Miami Symphony Orchestra. And that’s what you’ll ..

Not everybody who begins a musical career at age three singing in his grandfather’s Pentecostal Church finds his way to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Soloman Howard did in two short decades...

Hay pocos artistas que han tenido el impacto en sus disciplinas como el guitarrista Paco De Lucía tuvo en flamenco. En este género, hay un antes y después de De Lucía. Expandió el vocabul..

Dance NOW! Miami, la Florida Dance Education Organization (FDEO), Miami Dance Futures y la New World School of the Arts (NWSA) colaboraron el fin de semana pasado para presentar la Daniel Lew..

Esta es una gran noticia para el público amante del ballet en Miami. Tras un paréntesis de diez años en los que solo nos visitó de manera esporádica, la Primera Bailarina mexicana Katia Carra..

Solo hay que aplicar el concepto “seis grados de separación” a uno de los artistas que se han presentado en las Galas de Estrellas del Festival Internacional de Ballet de Miami (IBFM por sus ..

El debut de Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) en noviembre del año pasado fué un acontecimiento artístico y un descubrimiento sumamente agradable. Una sola función en el Miami-Dade Cou..

El festival “Out in the Tropics”, patrocinado por Fundarte en conjunto con el Centro Cultural Español y el Miami Book Fair International, normalmente trae artistas del mundo LGBTQ e hispanoha..

La Gala anual de Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami (CCBM) es un evento que esperan con ansiedad los aficionados al ballet en Miami y, sobre todo, los admiradores del estilo cubano. Desde su deb..

El 11 y 12 de mayo próximo tendrá lugar en el Miami -Dade County Auditorium el estreno en Estados Unidos de Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray(en español,Escrutinio: El mundo se ha ido a la deri..

Para el pianista y compositor cubano Omar Sosa la noción de una cultura global, sin fronteras, no es un concepto abstracto sino un tema personal. En su música, elementos de hip hop y rumba, ..