It’s one of the most familiar fables of the American stage, “Our Town.” It has more resonance even now, especially today.
Here, from the pen of Mr. Thornton Wilder, is part of the climactic monologue:
Emily: Oh, Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me. Mama, fourteen years have gone by. I’m dead. You’re a grandmother, Mama! Wally’s dead, too. His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway. We felt just terrible about it – don’t you remember? But, just for a moment now we’re all together. Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s really look at one another!…I can’t. I can’t go on.It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back — up the hill — to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-bye , Good-bye world. Good-bye, Grover’s Corners….Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking….and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths….and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth,you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every,every minute?Stage Manager: No. (pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some.
Emily: I’m ready to go back.
Too often, “Our Town” is sentimentalized, trivialized, Disney-fied. There is some of that; it’s a remembered ideal of a long-ago time. But underneath this story of love and life in a tiny town there is also deep sorrow and regret. And I can’t help but think, if interpreted correctly and staged honestly, this story acts as a parable that profoundly advocates life. In all its messiness and muck, its laughter and love.
Who would want to be deprived of that? Who would want to deprive another of it?