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Review: Their Town at Mockingbird on Main

A little drum roll, please…today I introduce you to a relatively new – only existing since July 2021 – performance venue in the Quad Cities. It’s The Mockingbird on Main in Davenport . This intimate, 40-seat, cabaret-style venue describes itself as a “creator-driven arts incubator…that aspires to provide an inclusive, collaborative, safe, and innovative environment,” with the vision “to unite cross-generational outreach and civic engagement to make a positive impact on our world through excellence in artistic expression.” Lofty – but admirable – goals and their offerings are not limited to theater.

My initiation to this group was its current production of “Their Town” by local playwright Alexander Richardson who also directs the show. Richardson has basically updated Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic: “Our Town.” He states in his program notes that he “believes Wilder’s “message still needs to be experienced but had to ask himself ‘how would this story be told today?’” I’m not entirely sure I agree. By definition, a classic implies that it speaks to the ages regardless of its timeframe.

Emily and George are still a couple, but now they are co-habiting rather than being married, there is radio DJ, Michelle, whose ratings are falling and is on the verge of losing her job. There’s Bernard, a senior citizen in early stages of dementia whose children are forcing him into a retirement community, and Cierra, newly divorced and struggling to obtain employment after completing nurses training. Obviously, these scenarios are more familiar in today’s world, but while Wilder’s early 1900’s version may be banal, it is nostalgic and wistful; Richardson ’s 21st century version trends toward slow (the show runs about 2 ½ hours) and depressing, which isn’t necessarily good or bad – just different. All of the characters lead unhappy lives. While Emily Webb of Grover’s Corner had reason to return to earth to savor a happy day in her life, this Emily’s only apparent motivation to return is to get a second chance to get it right.

That being said, this show is really well-performed. The role of stage manager/narrator is assumed by both Adam Cerny and Taylor Gravert; who also perform several ancillary parts throughout the play. Cerny is a prolific, well-seasoned performer who I’ve seen in many venues throughout the Quad Cities. He maintains his excellence in this role. Gravert shows real talent in a wide variety of those ancillary roles and it was a delight to watch her morph from character to character. But, when narrating, her volume dropped so considerably I could barely hear her…and I was practically sitting onstage.

Emily and George were strongly portrayed by Brittany Anderson and Drew DeKeryl who navigate the tension of opposing life goals without the onus of marriage that would have added cement to the relationship and some of the best lines in this work are assigned to Louie Fischer as the irascible Bernard. Unfortunately, Fischer’s delivery was monochromatic and somewhat wooden.

Emmalee Hillburn’s angst ridden Michelle was so natural she fit seamlessly into the role and Alisha Hanes’ portrayal of Cierra was genuine and made me wish her role was larger.

“Their Town” continues Thursday, September 29 through Saturday, October 1 at 8:00 p.m. at The Mockingbird on Main, 320 North Main Street in Davenport . That’s the building just north of Me & Billy’s. Please consider supporting this valuable addition to the Quad Cities’ theater scene which is solely funded by its founders. Admission is “pay what you can” at the door by cash or Venmo.

I’m Chris Hicks…break a leg.