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Translation by Carlo Fruttero and Franco Lucentini
Introduction by Will Eno
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Wilder's hymn to ordinary lives
The play opens by introducing the audience to its setting, Grover's Corners, and to the Stage Manager, the narrator of the play, who also interacts with the audience. The Stage Manager is omniscient: he knows the thoughts and actions of all the characters. Grover's Corners is a small town, still years away from its first automobile. As the Stage Manager notes, most families stay in Grover's Corners forever; they are born and die here. The first act of the play shows the daily life of Grover's Corners. We are introduced to two families: the Gibbs family and the Webb family. The Stage Manager comments to the audience about the actions of the first act, which include a newsboy delivering papers, milk being delivered, Doc Gibbs leaving for work, and the Webb family eating breakfast. When the children leave for school, Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Gibbs meet to talk for a while. In the second part of the first act, we see the children, George Gibbs and Emily Webb, interact with each other. George compliments Emily on a speech she made at school and Emily watches him play ball. In the second act of the play, we are told that three years have passed. The morning starts just as the previous act, newspaper and milk being delivered and the families eating breakfast. However, this morning, as we learn, Emily and George are getting married. The Stage Manager updates the audience on the last three years that led to the wedding between the two: George and Emily had a fight about how their friendship had changed, George took Emily for a soda at the drugstore, and the two admitted that they had feelings for each other. Before the wedding, both George and Emily worry about growing older and having to grow up. The final act opens in the cemetery. We learn that several characters have died, including Mrs. Gibbs and Wallace Webb. Emily has also died during childbirth. The remaining characters are there to prepare for Emily's funeral. Emily sits with Mrs. Gibbs watching the funeral from beyond the grave and decides that she wants to go back, if only for a moment, to see the life that she had lived. The Stage Manager takes Emily back in time to her twelfth birthday. Emily watches her family, but it is all too much for her. She returns to the cemetery, and those who have died talk about living and how they do not fully understand what life has to offer.
“This is the way we were: in our growing up and in our marrying and in our living and in our dying”.