That scene in Act 2 is especially nicely played in the Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company production that opened Thursday night on the grounds of the Abington Arts Center in Montgomery County and that will travel to area parks and public spaces, changing venues nightly over the next two weeks.
Except for cloud cover that blocked the real stars referred to in the third act, opening night was beautiful. The verdant location was perfect for the show, done with a bare-bones (a little too bare-bones) set — two ladders, some chairs, and a clothesline.
One of the reasons the play has been so popular is its demand that we cherish each day, especially the unexceptional ones — something obvious and worthwhile, but generally unachievable. (Faced with a day of laundry and chores? Tell me about it.) Commonwealth Classic's production, directed neatly by Allen Radway, has no room for flourishes out there in the fields; it comes to the point and doesn't even put its narrator, in his celebrated role as Stage Manager, out into the crowds a few feet away.
The part is played with charming authority by Paul Parente, whose generalized New England accent is so good it makes you realize that no one else is speaking his language. This puts a damper on the production's believability and also highlights the benefits of hiring a dialect coach, much needed here.
That's especially true for Eric Scotolati, whose super-stressed g's and t's give his otherwise strong performance as young George, a central character, an amateur sheen; he unfortunately has a lot of "going to"s to say, all of them delivered as if he learned English on the stage.
Nevertheless, he portrays his character sweetly, as does Kristen Egermeier as Emily, the girl next door who later, in marriage, becomes the woman of his house, and even later is the ghost who looks on at him. Except for a tad too much blubbering at the end, when she realizes that the dead must remain so, she's wonderful as she gets older.
The rest of the large cast is uneven, but not enough to dent the play or diminish its power. Trice Baldwin as George's mother is a standout for her spot-on timing and delivery. The production is enhanced by the music of sound designer John Greenbaum, who plays the ukulele at prime moments.
I apologize for being unable to tell you about the key players' character development — so important to a play that begins with them in stages of youth and young adulthood and ends with them dead. By the time I reached the grounds in Abington, the first act was only a few minutes from over; too many theater stories to cover on my part, too little time.
Too little time, of course, is what Our Town is all about, and too many things done and paths crossed without noticing their worth to your life.
Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727 or email@example.com, or #philastage on Twitter.
Presented by Commonwealth Classic Theatre Company at parks throughout the region through July 28. The performances are free. Information: www.commonwealthclassictheatre.org or 610-202-7878.
Saturday: Elkins Estate, Elkins Park; 7 p.m. Sunday: JFK Plaza (LOVE Park), Center City; 7 p.m. Wednesday: Auburn Road Vineyard, Pilesgrove, N.J.; 7 p.m. Thursday: ?Morris Arboretum, Chestnut Hill; 6:30 p.m. Friday: Brookhaven Municipal Lawn; 7 p.m. July 21: 20th Century Club Lawn, Lansdowne; 7 p.m. July 22: International House, University City; 7 p.m. July 25: McMichael Park, East Falls; 7 p.m. July 26: White's Road Park, Lansdale; 7:30 p.m. July 27: Everhart Park, West Chester; 7 p.m. July 28: West Goshen Community Park; 7 p.m.