Finally, when the stage manager approaches the table and chairs that serve as the Gibbs house and points to the spot that is to be Mrs. Webb’s garden, vine and flower-covered trellises are rolled out “for those,” he says, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “who think they have to have scenery,” and the audience then focuses on the individual lives that are to be examined in this play, rather than on superfluous details.
Main Street. Street at the heart of Grover’s Corners on which almost every character in the play is, at one time or another, seen bustling along. However, the actions of these people take on far greater meaning against the backdrop of Emily’s return visit to earth. Even Howie Newsome’s job of delivering the daily milk seems poignant when Emily “listens in delight” to the sound of his voice, along with Constable Warren’s and Joe Crowell Jr.’s, sounds she very likely heard every day of her life.
Gibbs house and Webb house. Childhood homes of George Gibbs and Emily Webb. The introductory stage directions for act 1 state that the audience is to see nothing but “an empty stage in half-light” upon arriving. Eventually, the stage manager strolls out and places “a table and three chairs downstage left,” and another set of table and chairs downstage right. These items, along with a small bench, serve as the Gibbs and Webb houses. These are the sole objects seen as the stage manager begins to describe Grover’s Corners in the play’s opening lines. When Emily revisits the Webb home in act 3, as Wilder himself once pointed out, even the kitchen table and chairs are gone. “Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind–not in things, not in ‘scenery,’” Wilder said.
Morgan’s drugstore. Grover’s Corners’s combination pharmacy and soda shop. Again emphasizing the irrelevance of place and props in this play, the stage manager takes two chairs from the Gibbs family’s kitchen and places a board across their backs to create the counter of what is presumably the local teen hangout. It is here that George and Emily first realize they want to spend their futures together.
Cemetery. Hilltop graveyard that becomes Emily’s final resting place. Given the theme of the play, it is not surprising that its last act emphasizes the specifics of nature. According to the stage manager, the graveyard lies beneath “lots of sky, lots of clouds,–often lots of sun and moon and stars.” He also tells the audience that lilacs and mountain laurel cover this hill, and admits to being puzzled when he thinks of people who choose to be buried in a place like Brooklyn when they could spend eternity in this corner of New Hampshire.
As with every setting in the play, the beauty of the cemetery could not have been conveyed in a more effective way than through words alone. Paradoxically, the very absence of concrete place is what makes every aspect of Grover’s Corners come so vividly to life. However, as Wilder intended, each audience member’s idea of the town will be specific to that individual’s own imagination and rendering. “The climax of this play,” he said, “needs only five square feet of boarding and the passion to know what life means to us.”