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‘The Avengers’ Visit ‘Our Town’ For Puerto Rico Relief

For those of you who didn’t know metro Atlanta has become a hotbed of film production in the last few years. The ancillary benefit of this is if you live in certain areas of the city or hang out in certain places you can rub elbows with the rich and famous. With Georgia’s decent weather, economic development incentives and low cost of living, I assume this phenomenon will continue for the foreseeable future.

Additionally, with the federal government’s anemic response to the destruction of Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria there has been a huge outpouring of support out of the local community. Two local restaurants, Buen Provecho & Porch Light Latin Kitchen have spearheaded local relief efforts, taking in millions in donations and getting the goods to Puerto Rico and distributed to those in need.

Scarlett Johansson has been a passionate advocate for Puerto Rico recovery since the hurricane hit and rather than sit on the sidelines she decided to do something. Avengers: Infinity War is currently filming in the Atlanta area and she partnered with her cast mates, the Fox Theater, The John Gore Organization, Marvel and Disney to put on a reading of the classic American play Our Town. All proceeds went to benefit the Hurricane Maria Community Recovery Fund. If you have the means, please consider giving. Americans are dying and they need our help.

Marvel and Disney donated the production costs and the wonderful employees of the Fox Theater donated their time to make something very special a reality. Over $500,000 was raised for Puerto Rico. It was a wonderfully uplifting experience.

Growing up outside New York City I’ve been to the theater hundred of times. One of my earliest memories of my grandmother is her taking me to see Sandy Duncan on Broadway as Peter Pan. With all my theater experience, I’ve never attended a reading, so it was a really new and fun way to experience the theater.

Because the production came together quickly there was no time to put on the full show. Each member of the cast was assigned a part and they all sat on stools and read out of script books. I’ve been to theater starring Nathan Lane. I’ve been to Hamilton in NY while Chris Jackson was still George Washington. I’ve never experienced this kind of star power up close and personal.

In person our beloved Avengers are a little different than on screen. Ruffalo, Renner, Downey are all relatively small men and Scarlett is really tiny. Chris Evans, however, is Captain America sized. Well over six feet, carved out of granite with a look that says, “I can take everyone in this theater if I am forced to.”

Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Frank Grillo and Chris Evans headlined the show. (Is Frank Grillo being there a spoiler for Infinity Wars? I mean maybe, right?) RDJ had the biggest role as the stage manager and ScarJo played the female lead, Emily Webb.

After 10 years of fighting bad guys together the rapport between the Avengers on stage was clear. Very early in the reading Chris Evans was left hanging because Robert Downey stole page 12 out of his script book. It couldn’t have been a more Tony Stark/Steve Rogers moment. The cast is just sitting there, wondering who was supposed to be talking. Frank Grillo points out to Chris Evans that he was up and Evans saying, “I don’t have page 12.”

“I wonder how that happened,” was the snarky comment from Robert Downey. The crowd roared. Chris Evans laughed and shook his head the way Cap would have and the show continued. Obviously, I was in nerd heaven.

Mark Ruffalo played Dr. Gibbs to Jeremy Renner’s George Gibbs. As father and son they were really funny, with Jeremy playing the role a bit more modern and a bit more obnoxious than Thornton Wilder may have intended. The crowd ate up every moment.

Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johannson sat next to each other on the stage and their affection for each other was clear. There were moments of them poking each other like siblings, holding hands and he kept giving her tissues because it seemed like she was suffering from a cold or allergies. These were sweet human moments we don’t usually get to see as fans.

The third act of Our Town gets very serious and the professionalism of the cast became apparent. The joking around stopped as the story focused on ScarJo. It was really compelling to see her invest totally in a role she had only read once before, manufacturing the raw emotion and pain that Wilder wrote into the character. With the stylized nature of most of her movies it is easy to forget that she can bring it. She’s a top notch professional player and the third act showed it to the Atlanta crowd.

All in all Our Town was a smashing success raising a huge amount of money for Puerto Rico and entertaining over 3000 fans. It was a very special night and I was thrilled to be a part of it.

5 out of 5 stars.


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