Our Town Synopsis
Act I: Daily Life
The Stage Manager introduces the audience to the small town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, and its residents as a morning begins in 1901. Joe Crowell delivers the paper, Howie Newsome delivers the milk, and the neighboring Webb and Gibbs households send their children off to school. The Stage Manager brings out a long-winded professor to talk about the history and pre-history of Grover's Corners, Editor Webb gives a few notes on local political and religious affiliations and fields questions from the audience about alcoholism, social injustice and culture. After school, George and Emily exchange a few words, and Emily self-consciously asks her mother if she's pretty. The Stage Manager mentions that a time capsuleis being laid in the cornerstone of a new bank in town, and noting the lack of information about the common people of ancient cultures, he resolves that a copy of this play will be placed inside. Moving to the evening, Emily whispers homework hints to George through their open windows. On their way home from choir practice, Mrs Gibbs, Mrs Webb and Mrs Soames discuss Simon Stimson, the choir director with a reputation for being a drunkard. Doc Gibbs teaches George a lesson in responsibility, and young Rebecca frets that the moon will strike the earth, causing "A big 'splosion".
Act II: Love and Marriage
Three years pass and George and Emily prepare to wed. The day is filled with stress. Howie Newsome is delivering milk in the pouring rain while Si Crowell, younger brother of Joe, laments how George's baseball talents will be squandered. George pays an awkward visit with his soon-to-be in-laws. Here, the Stage Manager interrupts the scene and takes the audience back a year, to the end of Emily and George's junior year. Emily confronts George about his pride, and over an ice cream soda, they discuss the future and their love for each other. George resolves not to go to college, as he had planned, but to work and eventually take over his uncle's farm. The wedding follows where George, in a fit of nervousness, tells his mother that he is not ready to marry.
Act III: Death and Eternity
The Stage Manager opens the act with a lengthy monologue emphasizing eternity, and introduces us to the cemetery outside of town and the characters who died in the nine years since Act Two: Mrs Gibbs (pneumonia, while traveling), Wally Webb (burst appendix, while camping), Mrs Soames, and Simon Stimson (suicide by hanging), among others. We meet the undertaker, Joe Stoddard, and a young man Sam Craig who has returned home for his cousin's funeral. We learn that his cousin is Emily, who died giving birth to her and George's second child. The funeral ends and Emily emerges to join the dead. Then Mrs. Gibbs tells her that they must wait and forget the life that came before, but Emily refuses. Despite the warnings of Simon, Mrs. Soames, and Mrs. Gibbs, Emily decides to return to Earth to re-live just one day, her 12th birthday. She finally finds it too painful, and realizes just how much life should be valued, "every, every minute." Poignantly, she asks the Stage Manager whether anyone realizes life while they live it, and is told, "No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some." She then returns to her grave, beside Mrs. Gibbs, watching impassively as George kneels weeping at her graveside. The Stage Manager concludes the play, reflecting on the probable lack of life beyond Earth, and wishes the audience a good night.