MIDWAY —  On the mild Thursday evening of June 6, 2024 I saw Charitable Acts Theatre’s production of Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The venue was nearly sold out with friends and relatives, and the production ran approximately two and a half hours with a pair of intermissions between acts one and two. The show is double cast, and I had the opportunity to see The cast featuring Cathy Ostler as the stage manager and Julie Doud as Mrs. Gibbs. My hope is that these details excite you even more than Professor Willard’s ramblings about Grover’s Corners do in act one, because this was a simple but beautiful show. Watching Our Town was as peaceful as sitting and watching the sunset for a few hours. No hustle, little — though excellently done — spectacle, and a rare treat to see as UTBA only has one other review of Our Town in the last ten years. 

My immediate praise goes to the direction of Kristen Hughes. The staging and timing of each character’s entrances was superb. The show’s turn of the century time period and rural setting lends itself to a pace that ambles. The show never felt rushed, but no movement felt wasted either. Characters would arrive like clockwork and stop when the Stage Manager made it so. I was particularly impressed by the staging in act 2. I loved the near stillness of the ensemble assembled in the cemetery, and the juxtaposition of the mourners set up center. It allowed the audience to see from the perspective that they needed to to make those moments work. It was clear that cast and creative team all understood the text of these moments, and that is a huge success from Hughes. 

Charitable Acts Theatre ; 2024 ; Our Town ; Wasatch County ; Midway ;

Our Town plays at Historic Midway Town Hall Through June 15. | PC: Laura Hicken

In a similar fashion, I was impressed by lighting design from Adam Gowers.The story spans more than a decade but is centered on three significant days in the lives of George Gibbs and Emily Webb. I noticed dully that the lights would change as time passed in the day, but it wasn’t overt. The three days were also lit with subtle tonal shifts as the wedding act was brighter than the funeral act. It was just enough to matter and not enough to notice and Gowers had excellent finesse on this production. 

The other technical elements were functional and lovely for what they did. I loved the period choices for the costumes by a team of five talented sewers and designers. Each character looked neat and smart as if they had a caring mother to launder and dry clothes. The wedding dress worn by Emily was elegant and made her radiant on stage next to all the other characters. Similar care was taken in regards to scenic design and sound scaping. The iconic use of two ladders for Emily and George to climb as they watched one another from their windows was nice. There was also an exciting, though sometimes overwhelming, use of smell in the play. I thought it was a creative choice with a lot of potential, but at times things smelled as if they were burning, and I’m not sure that was the intent. 

Ostler’s performance as the stage manager was delightful. She hilariously responded to the action of the play while maintaining the mystique and aura of an all knowing figure who discusses both past and future events as if she had a foot in both. I loved the understanding she brought to the character’s poignant moments, and the humor she brought when it was merited. It was like having the ultimate tour guide to Grover’s Corners who loved and anticipated everything about the town. 

Naomi Hansen excelled playing the ingénue Emily Webb. Her fierce sincerity when asking the question “Am I pretty?” to her mother was so endearing. It was lovely to see the mother daughter relationship played out between Hansen and Nicole Holbrook who played Mrs. Webb in the June 6 cast. They had a conversation that didn’t feel dated, but took depression era text and made it relevant and poignant in today’s body positive society. She carried this same energy and uncertainty into act two, and mostly delivered on the character’s arc in the third act. I felt that her need to leave her memories and return to death was a little abrupt, but some of that was simply how she played the character.

Charitable Acts Theatre ; 2024 ; Our Town ; Wasatch County ; Midway ;

PC: Laura Hicken | Art by Simon Zabaldo

Similarly, Thomas Greenwood was a solid George. He didn’t overact the funeral scenes, and he dug well into the head of George in the soda shop scene where George is seeking for the right words to tell Emily how he feels. The love story between George and Emily was sweet, warm and most of all believable because of how the two played their parts. It was a strong ensemble effort with praise to be given to each of the Grover’s Corners residents — living and dead. 

Driving through Provo Canyon into Heber City and then Midway feels like taking a plunge back in time. Houses are spread further apart. The highway runs down a real main street and local eateries and businesses fill the area. This production funds the Wasatch Community Foundation which drives home the powerful feeling of community in the play. This show in this location felt like Americana at its finest and was a production that brought tears to many eyes. It may well be worth the trip to make the scenic drive and enjoy the double cast of Our Town in Midway. 

OUR TOWN produced by Charitable Acts Theatre plays through June 15 at Historic Midway Town Hall (75 N. 100 W Midway). Tickets are $14-17. For more information, visit https://charitableactstheatre.org/