Another Day’s Begun: Thornton Wilder’s Our Town in the 21st Century

Bloomsbury Academic. Jan. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781350123441. $90; pap. ISBN 9781350123434. $26.95. THEATER
Given that Thornton Wilder’s much-performed play Our Town is often considered quaint and steeped in sentimentality, with its focus on the mundane aspects of unextraordinary lives, another visit to Grover’s Corners might seem unnecessary. Yet theater administrator, writer, and advocate Sherman makes the case that in times of trouble we yearn for simplicity. He provides a captivating history of Our Town, complete with nuggets such as a TV musical version that gave us Frank Sinatra’s delightful “Love and Marriage.” The author showcases productions of the last 20 years, blending interviews with performers, directors, and crew, who describe the lasting effects of having been involved with Our Town. The glory of the play is that companies can easily make it their own and cast it to reflect their community rather than early 20th-century New Hampshire, and Wilder himself was supportive of diverse interpretations. Sherman’s voice shines when describing his own experiences with the play, including how he changed his mind about his opinion that young actors could not possibly relate to the themes of loss and death.
VERDICT In this time of dark stages and unemployed thespians, Sherman’s reflections will enchant all theater buffs.
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