The Morning File / What if 'Our Town' were about a place just like Pittsburgh?


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The Morning File sent its drama critic to the Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of "Our Town" last week, and he thought it was great.

He especially liked the use of an all-Pittsburgh cast for the performance of Thornton Wilder's classic describing the cycle of small-town American life. He just wished they would have gone one step further and set the play in modern-day Pittsburgh, Pa., instead of fictional Grover's Corners, N.H., of a century ago.

Here's how it might have gone, if so, using Wilder's famous Stage Manager who addresses the audience throughout as a guide for the goings-on:

Act 1

Stage Manager: The sun is just coming up on the Not-Steel-Anymore City, where the good people are recovering from the previous night's revelry on Carson Street and making their weekend plans to go down by the rivers' confluence to see if a giant artificial duck might reappear.

A little historical background on our city: A lot of white men and Indians fought over forts that went by different names at the confluence. Those overlooks you can picture up on Mount Washington were established at that time so heartless steel barons could watch the bloody fighting for their amusement.

And now, those first stirrings you hear are from Mrs. Gibbs, wife of town doctor Frank Gibbs, who has been out working all night. She's coming down to get her coffee and turn on the local newscast's morning show to get tips on gardening and meal preparation. And here's Dr. Gibbs coming in the door now ...

Julia Gibbs: You must be very tired, Frank. You were delivering twins again?

Frank Gibbs: Well, no, the family didn't have the right insurance, it turned out. I went to a bar across from the hospital and watched ESPN's "SportsCenter" most of the night. What's for breakfast?

Stage Manager: And so it goes in the Gibbs household. Their next-door neighbors are the Webbs, and Charles Webb runs the town's newspaper. He and his wife, Myrtle, are just starting their day also ...

Myrtle Webb: Good morning, dear. Any news yet on whether people are willing to pay for getting their news from you off the Internet?

Charles Webb: You're asking me? I can't get the computer to come on this morning. Where are the kids? I need them to turn on the mother-loving computer. Emily! Wally! Get down here now!

Act 2 (four years later)

Stage Manager: Well, one thing led to another, as you can imagine, and Dr. Gibbs is out of business after the big malpractice case, and Mr. Webb is just a stay-at-home blogger who has yet to figure out how to make any money from it. The good news is the families' older children, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, just got married yesterday. Now they're having their first breakfast together ...

Emily: So, George, is this the day you finally apply for that job drilling gas wells? We can't count on any money now from our parents, you know.

George: I have a different plan. We just sit here and watch TV while waiting for the gas company to come begging to drill wells on our property, and we collect royalties forever.

Emily: I don't know, George. I don't know if that's good for the environment around here, considering all the kids I want to have. Couldn't you look for, you know, a real job -- maybe a Pirates vendor or a dishwasher at one of the trendy new Downtown restaurants?

George: My God, woman, am I to listen to this nagging every morning for the rest of my life? If you're the smart one in the family, tell me why we're $80,000 in debt already from your tuition bills, when you said it would be cheap to go to college in-state.

Emily: It is usually, George, but this is Pennsylvania! Not New Hampshire -- Pennsylvania!

Act 3 (10 years later)

Stage Manager: As you might expect, folks, George is in prison now after the big domestic abuse case he was involved in, which Charles Webb wrote about in heart-rending fashion. He became the first blogger to win a Pulitzer Prize, although he's still penniless and Myrtle has left him for a young gas-driller.

Emily has opened our city's biggest and best women's violence shelter, although she remains childless and still can't pay off her college debts. And Dr. Gibbs, he was hired to head our city's largest health insurance company after its own CEO got in trouble for infidelity and battery.

We hope yinz have enjoyed our little production. Drive home safely -- that is, if you can figure out the detours.

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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