In Any Town, Wilder’s Mirror Reflects Angst

Peter Applebome of The New York Times looks at how Our Town contains universal messages applicable on a global scale.

“NOT to be too self-referential, but the ‘One Book/One Community’ celebration going on in this tiny Bergen County town raises a good question – how much can any community in New York and its environs in 2004 have in common with the world of Thornton Wilder’s famous play about small-town life a century ago?

The answer turns out to be not much, just about everything, and please read the play before answering.
Suburbia, at its heart, is an attempt to resurrect an imagined small-town ideal of connections and community. But, as Lincoln Konkel, an English professor at the College of New Jersey who will discuss the play here tonight, points out, a small-town ideal isn’t what Our Town is about at all. Instead, it’s a dark play full of death and regret about lives never fully lived.

That’s its message for the era of suburban palaces and microwave lives. Not that there’s some heavenly balm in small-town intimacy, but that even in a place like this, time only seems to stand still. That’s why the play still matters, not because it evokes a wonderful lost world, but that even in a perfect little town like this, maybe particularly in a perfect little town like this, we’re left like Emily in the play, looking back from the grave, aghast that it all went by so fast and we barely noticed.”

To read the complete article, please visit the The New York Times website.