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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—In January 1938, at a renowned New Jersey theater some twenty miles from The George Street Playhouse, “Our Town” celebrated its first public performance.
Now, 76 years later, the play about the people of Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire has been re-worked by another celebrated New Jersey theater, in collaboration with its local community.
Borrowing a format and theme from the original is where the similarities end. Our Town Now is its own play, bringing to life its own contemporary version of Thornton Wilder’s most famous work.
Instead of AnyTown USA, Our Town is Hub City, with a more urban focus reflecting something more like “Any City USA” and the gorgeous mosaic that makes up the ever-changing American demographic.
Keeping with original play’s theme, Our Town Now could be any contemporary American city, large or small.
Growing up in Brooklyn, this reviewer could easily identify with the cycles this drama touch on, from the prosperous 1950’s, the tensions of the 1960’s, urban decay of the 1970’s, and then with the help of citizens who refused to surrender, the gradual renaissance of urban America that began in the late 1980’s and continues today.
That cast, of which every member either lived or worked in New Brunswick, did a fine job and seemed to be enjoying themselves on stage. They also had an integral part of play’s composition, helping improvise and write the script.
Our Town Now was brainchild of Jim Jack, George Street Playhouse’s Director of Education. Considering how competitive theater is, and how difficult it is to fill seats, that any venue would forgo ticket revenues from a Saturday matinee to open a professional venue in one of the area’s most important theater districts outside of Manhattan, free of charge.
Funding for the play came from the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission, New Brunswick City Market, New Brunswick Development Corporation, New Brunswick Cultural Center, the New Brunswick Parking Authority,and New Jersey 350.
One tiny blip in an otherwise fine afternoon of theater. The recounting of New Brunswick’s infamous Halls-Mills murder was a bit too graphic, leaving some of those in the crowd unsettled.
If there is another showing, it might be advisable to tone that down.
Of course, all plays fresh out of the box need tweaking. Thank you Jim Jack and George Street Playhouse.