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Where is Grover’s Corners?

Walk a few hundred meters pastthe park known as Pedion Areos along Leoforos Alexandras, to number 106. On thethird floor of an unprepossessing building you will find the Lambeti TheatreTerrace, an open-air, 300-seat venue. There you will find a marvelousproduction of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and that is exactlywhere Grover’s Corners is located. In Athens.

The production by Iasmos HigherSchool of Drama is directed and dramaturged bu Yiannis Kakleas and it capturesthe charm, humour, touching drama and beauty of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize winner. 

Our Town tells thestory of life in a mythical American town between 1901 and 1913. The story isnarrated by a Stage Director (Dimitris Kouroumbalis) who informs us that we areseeing a reenactment of what happened in Grover’s Corners at the beginning ofthe last century. Kouroumbalis is an excellent host who leads us through thestory with charm and good humour.

The three acts of the play aretitled Daily Life, Love and Marriage, and Death and Eternity and thatencompasses the entire cycle of life. George Gibbs (Giorgos Amoutzas) and EmilyWebb (Alexandra Tavoulari) are neighbours and classmates in school. We followthese attractive youngsters at home where their mothers try to get them to eattheir breakfast, behave well and do well. They fall in love haltingly, tenderlywith large doses of humor and we follow them through poignant and funny weddingand then on to Death and Eternity. Just splendid performances.

George’s parents Dr. Gibbs(Yiorgos Yianoutsos) and Mrs. Gibbs (Iphigenia Asteriadi) and Emily’s parentsMr. Webb (Dimitris Degaitis), the newspaper owner and Mrs. Webb (FayKokkinopoulou) are loving, worried, decent and wonderful people and the actorsconvince us of that unfailingly.

The same can be said of all theother actors.

Kakleas seemed very enamored ofvideo clips and there are a number of them projected at various stages of theplay. Some of them are clips from silent films with views of small-town Americaand comic scenes with actors like Buster Keaton. Some of the clips are madewith the actors on stage and made to appear s if they are old, silent movies.Even the scene with Professor Willard (Spyros Katsianos) is made to look as ifit were an old film clip.

The last scene in the cemeteryduring a funeral is very moving. We meet the dead people of the town seated inarrow as the funeral of Emily is in progress. It is a wonderful scene thatraises the play above a merely sentimental comedy.  

There are some, perhapsinexcusable, infelicities. All the actors had a cord around their neck which helda microphone near their mouths. That means we heard everyone from oneloudspeaker located at the top of the stage. It was extremely annoying,unsightly and surely unnecessary. Most of the actors are professionals andsurely they can project their voice all of the fifty feet to the back of thetheatre. 

The set by Manolis Pantelidakis,is appropriately unrealistic. The houses of the two families are indicated oneach side of the stage with location changes indicated in the middle of theplaying area. Full marks for stage design.

I found the reaction of theaudience unpleasantly surprising. There were very few laughs, to put itpolitely, in a production that I found funny and enjoyable. There were timeswhen I was the only one laughing. A fine production deserves a betterreception.


Our Town by Thornton Wilder, in a translationby Minoas Volanakis will play until September 22, 2019 at the Theatro Lambeti,106 Leoforos Alexandras, Athens, Greece.  

September 13, 2019

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