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Wednesday, July 1,2009

Light up the sky

LCC brings early summer fireworks with minimalist ‘Our Town’

by Tom Helma

 


The magic of live theater came out of the dark auditorium and into the open air of downtown Lansing last weekend with a revival of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” on Lansing Community College’s outdoor stage.

This minimal-set play, an ageless icon of the very best of American theater, was performed seamlessly and elegantly by an array of local actors, students and LCC alumni under the direction of Mary Matzke.

“Our Town” is a deceptively simple story of what first appears to be a nostalgic trip back to what we imagine as the more innocent America of the early 19th Century. When it morphs into a third act musing on the theological complexities of life after death, it truly dazzles. This is a work one might consider revisiting in each decade of one’s adult life.


The ever-capable Jack Dowd, one of LCC’s most loyal alumni, played the juicy role of Stage Manager, narrating the entire play with great stage presence and clarity of voice. At times, Dowd’s Manager seemed more like the embodiment of God or a watchful guardian angel; on stage, he moved the action along, much like a real backstage manager might.

Lansing’s most charming ingénue, the fetching Rachel Kabodian, played the lead role of Emily Webb. Opposite Kabodian, in the role of George Gibbs, was Cody Masalkoski, who is better known for his work backstage. Together the two created a moment of sheer delight on stage that prompted spontaneous applause, as George’s deerin-headlights courtship of Emily triggered a full-range of emotional responses from her.

More than a handful of supporting and featured roles were
embellishments on an already competent production. The scene in which
Emily’s father, played by LCC theater instructor Andy Callis, imparts
fatherly advice to groom-to-be George was particularly tender.

In
her inaugural performance on the LCC stage, Madeline Nash was also
noteworthy, as George’s mother, Mrs. Gibbs.


Bartley H. Bauer’s mural of
an abstract Tree of Life served as a cosmic backdrop for a play that
transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary in a single evening.

That
this outdoor production, which competed with Oldsmobile Park fireworks,
distant train whistles and bicycles whizzing by to the left and right
of stage, could be this good is simply amazing.

Community theater companies take notice; LCC Theatre is on the map.

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