August 30 – September 29, 2013
Directed by John Langs
Written by Will Eno
I was not sure what to expect going into Middletown. I knew the basics, it is a modern telling of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, but that’s about it. It is fair to say that I was blown away. Will Eno’s writing is fearless, accessible and blatantly honest. At times, the dialogue between characters is almost uncomfortably relatable. Who hasn’t had an awkward conversation with a neighbor? Who hasn’t blurted something out in front of a stranger and regretted it instantly? We are all human, we are never going to be perfect and that, in itself, is the plight of humanity. You might think this sounds like a insufferable experience in which to build a play around but in fact, it is what makes this play so incredibly intimate. It should be insufferable, but it isn’t. It is somewhat comfortable to be reassured that we all have sleepless nights, where anxieties we have no control over, consume our thoughts. Everyone feels stuck, no one really knows what is going on. This mindset seems to be somewhat magnified within small towns. People have a tendency to get lost in the simplicity.
The inhabitants of Middletown are easy to empathize with, after only two hours you feel like you have known them for years. The cheerful librarian, played by Marianne Owen, offers continuous optimism with a genuine maternal warmth. The town cop, played by Matthew Floyd Miller, is interrogative and suspicious, though he has unexpected poetic moments that will knock you flat. The town mechanic (also the town addict) played by Ray Tagavilla, is the most confusing, remarkably heartbreaking character I have encountered so far this year. I can only hope that his performance will haunt you like it has haunted me. The doctor, played by Sarina Hart, gives the word ’empathy’ a new, very visceral meaning. Each of them achieves remarkable moments of tenderness.
If you have any appreciation for theatre whatsoever, go see this play. I will even share a little known secret about the ACT Theatre, if you go there after 1pm on the day of the show, and there are still seats available, it is “Pay What You Can.” You’re welcome. No excuses.
by Chelsea Madsen