Willamette Week, November 20, 2013
By Rebecca Jacobson
Our Town gets a bad rap. So does experimental theater. Thank goodness, then, for Liminal Performance Group’s production of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play. It’s a production that started out as a joke—why would an avant-garde company stage a mainstay of high-school theater?—but in practice is more reminiscent of poetry. The performance begins casually, almost imperceptibly, with the actors and technical crew roaming the bare stage. A skeleton of a cat crouches on a back shelf and a giant white orb hovers above. As actor Leo Daedalus—dressed on opening night in a black T-shirt emblazoned with a pot leaf—reads his first lines from a clipboard, it feels disarmingly unsteady. But these crude moments pair beautifully with the polished sequences, underlining the fact that Our Town is a play that shatters the fourth wall to call attention to itself as a piece of theater. As this tale of everyday life in small-town New Hampshire unfolds, director John Berendzen inflects Wilder’s modernist manifesto with lovely touches: skillful use of closed-circuit video, rhythmic choreography and a metronome that ticks at different speeds (in the soda-shop scene, it flutters faster than a besotted teenage heart). Performances can be off-kilter, sometimes disorientingly so, as when Alex Reagan’s Mr. Webb flits between ghostlike disengagement and frightening focus. The anchor, though, is Daedalus, who grows steadily more commanding once he ditches the marijuana T-shirt for a black suit. In one short monologue, he addresses the audience directly. As he asks us to remember being young and in love, he has all the power of a hypnotist.
7:30 pm Wednesdays-Saturdays and 3 pm Sundays through Dec. 1. No show on Thanksgiving., Friday November 22 | $12-$25 sliding scale.