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Thornton Wilder's Our Town (VHS) Review by Melanie Bunnett

PO Box 51790
Livonia, MI 48151

Not being very familiar with Thornton Wilder or his works, I was intrigued when offered the opportunity to review this Emmy-winning production of his play Our Town. This particular version of Our Town was envisioned by Thornton Wilder and was begun before his death in 1975. When it aired in 1977, the trustees of Wilder's estate were so pleased with the outcome that they decided not to allow another television version of the play.

When viewing this video, do not expect an ordinary, run-of-the-mill television program or movie production. This is an actual production of the play, acted by some well-known actors of the 70s, including Hal Holbrook, Barbara Bel Geddes, Sada Thompson, and Robby Benson. The video is in acts and is performed on a stage, just as it would be in the theater.

I did find it a tad disconcerting (and distracting) that there were very few actual props or scenery used in the play. The buildings were just roofs hung over the area the actors were in; the doorways, walkways, and shrubs were painted on the floor to suggest those items. When cooking, eating, or reading, the actors pantomimed those actions. That, however, is how the play was written and is apparently not a problem for the millions of other Americans who have seen this play in one form or another.

Because this play explores love, life, and death in a small American town at the beginning of the twentieth century (1901-14), it would be an interesting addition to a study of American history, particularly for older students. I thought it was too much dialogue with too many undertones of emotion for younger students to be interested.

A drawback to purchasing this tape would be the cost. This VHS tape retails for $74.95, far too much for most homeschooling families to purchase a copy for their private collection. However, for use in a co-op or another group setting, it might be a worthwhile investment to consider.

Product review by Melanie Bunnett, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2006