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}}

Grand Opera Moments featuring The Opera Atelier accompanied by the Arts Ballet Theatre and original choreography by Vladimir Issaev...

In these days of Facebook, YouTube, and television on demand, the opera, ballet, and symphony are all struggling to fill concert halls. So the Knight Foundation stepped in to bring classical arts to t..

For someone who placed extraordinary value on silence, and famously incorporated it into his musical compositions, John Cage is making quite a bit of noise. And deservedly so. Because, it would seem a..

Across four nights, traditional and contemporary music from: Germany, Cuba, Spain, Russia, and Argentina will be performed by various classically trained groups, starting with the opening performance ..

The unique two-day festival that highlights Jewish origins in a wide a array of music, from African-American spirituals and jazz to Latin dance, kicks off with a performance "Of Essence & Time/De La E..

A disco dance extravaganza a la Studio 54, with choreography from Rosie Herrera and dancers from the Rosie Herrera Dance Company...

SFCA [isaw + subtropics] hosts a four day 100th anniversary party for the seminal composer with a series of free concerts, installations, and events...

Across four evenings, the traditional and contemporary music of Germany, Cuba, Spain, Russia, and Argentina will be performed by classically trained groups, starting with the opening performance from ..

As one of the most pluralistic cities in the country, Miami is home to diverse enclaves from Haiti, Argentina, Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Nicaragua and others. Aptly, Miami is called..

Soulé was a transformative experience whose news needs to be spread like a testament. This one-night only performance of contemporary flamenco, blues and rhythm -- presented by Art Works for Us -- on ..

Davey Williams is rubbing a kitchen whisk across the strings of his black headless electric guitar as Jill Burton speaks in tongues into a microphone sandwiched in between two plastic cups. Parts of t..

The avant-garde describes the foremost part of an army advancing into battle. Davey Williams and Jill Burton are leading a charge of the musical avant-garde into South Florida this weekend and they ar..

The original, real trance music, not just the kind that you zone out to in any hip SoBe disco or downtown club, but the type that makes you feel as if the spirits are moving you, finds its roots in th..

People often imagine new artwork is the product of the solitary artist genius slaving away in lonely studios. The South Florida Symphony’s 20th anniversary program foregrounds a different vis..

At an age when many are winding down their working lives, Ignacio Berroa eagerly anticipates a new stage in his career. It would be understandable if the 64-year-old drummer, recognized a..

We know it’s the holiday season when trees light up, menorah candles start to burn, ubiquitous Christmas carols pipe through drugstores, “The Nutcracker” plays on every stage – and in recent ..

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..

El segundo programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) dedicado a los 100 años del nacimiento de Jerome Robbins (1918-1998), el gran coreógrafo norteamericano que triunfó ..

2017 fue un buen año para la danza en Miami. El Flamenco Festival nos permitió volver a ver a Jesús Carmona, el Internacional Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) sobrevivió al huracán Irma, Dance..

El Miami City Ballet (MCB) presentó por fin en el Arsht Center la nueva producción de su gran espectáculo navideño, el “Cascanueces” de Tchaikovsky y Balanchine, ahora con diseños origin..

La tradicional temporada de Cascanueces del Miami City Ballet (MCB) tendrá algo nuevo este año. La compañía que dirige Lourdes López ha decidido renovar los diseños de la superproducción que..

El programa que Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) presentó el sábado pasado en su exitoso debut como compañía en residencia del South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) y a solo ..

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 ..