Through September 10
MIDDLETOWN Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre/Shaw Festival
The 1929 study “Middletown” is a sociological look at an unnamed community grappling with the social change of the early 20th Century.
Will Eno’s play “Middletown” is that sociological study crossed with Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”
It’s different from that look at small town New Hampshire but it’s so similar you have to make that mental comparison.
Director Meg Roe stages this production as interactive, with many of the cast members sitting in audience and coming on the spare stage for a few lines and return, after going around to introduce themselves to the audience before the show.
The show is built around Mechanic (Jeff Meadows), a homeless vagrant with a substance problem, well known to local residents, including the local cop (Benedict Campbell).
While there are a lot of people in the play, there are few at the center of the action, like the Mechanic and the Cop, as well as local handyman John Dodge (Gray Powell) and new resident Mary Swanson (Moya O’Connell).
This is all taking place on city streets and in city homes, the streets drawn on the stage floor by cast members and gradually added to over the show.
Swanson hires Dodge for some repairs on her house, since her husband is some corporate road warrior we never meet although since she is having a baby at the end, he may have flown in and flown out.
This a town with good people and bad people, happy people and troubled people and the people who make things work, like the Landscaper (Peter Millard), who is the cop’s brother-in-law.
It doesn’t have the flow of “Our Town,” as that New Hampshire town and its residents move through the decades.
What makes this strong production of a weak show work are strong performances from Meadows, Powell, O’Connell and Campbell.
Because this show is in the newly named Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, you get a chance to see the show and the cast up close and personal and that’s good.
“Middletown” is an old story in the modern day, especially Mechanic’s struggles with drugs.
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