Review: John Paul College production Our Town
Monday, August 12th, 2019 in News.
The John Paul College production, Our Town. Photo / Jill Nicholas Rotorua Daily Post WHAT: Our Town WHERE: Casa Blanca Theatre PRODUCTION: John Paul College A great playwright of Thornton Wilder’s pedigree deserves only the best of casts to perform his work. With John Paul College’s production of his Pulitzer prize-wining play Our Town, he got it in spades and aces too. It’s an amazing achievement that these teenagers at the Years 12 and 13 stage of their lives have the maturity to grasp and portray the essence of this early 20th century morality play. Set in fictional Grover’s Corners, which could be anywhere in America’s Midwest, it’s the story of everyday people’s everyday lives. When the curtain rises it will be five years before automobiles arrive in the town, population 2642. George Gibbs (Mitchell Jones) and Emily Webb (Orla Walsh) are in their early teens. Gibbs’ dad (Daniel Perese) is a doctor, Webb’s father (Attila Gesztey), publishes the local newspaper. Their mothers sing in the church choir together. We learn all this, and so much more, from the narrator Wilder cast and named Stage Manager (Liam Black). Inevitably the teens fall in love, the second act heralds their wedding day, bride and groom are riddled with pre-nuptial nerves and self-doubt. These are emotions classically hard to play but Jones and Walsh handled them faultlessly. By Act 3 and nine years on, Emily dies in childbirth but returns to her home town to relive a day in her life, she chooses her 12th birthday. Those she reaches out to are tantalising close but frustratingly untouchable. Wilder’s lesson is mortality is reality, that the character’s circle of life is completed. Backing the principal players is an equally impressive line-up of talented youngsters in supporting parts. Two, Jae Woo Jin and Samantha Carter, multi-task in numerous roles. Sets and props are scant and unnecessary when such well-executed mime paints a thousand pictures. There’s no one in the entire line up, on stage or behind the scenes. Who hasn’t shone under Gabrielle Thurston’s always-taught direction? Other commitments at this point of the school year mean that, sadly, this was a two-show season. Those involved were being NCEA assessed. From this reviewer comes a 100 per cent pass mark all round. -Jill Nicholas