Middletown, written by Will Eno and directed by John Langs, is a contemporary retelling of the American classic Our Town. Middletown is startlingly true and poignant. In keeping with the theme of the original play, Middletown has a stark set only including two outlines of houses, a sidewalk, a bench, and a rock. The lack of set is a true metaphor for the play, a wonderfully quiet work about socially awkward people. Middletown is not afraid of silence and some of the best moments on stage are without dialogue. The performances by Alex Tavares and Eric Riedmann are reserved in just the right ways.
Alexandra Tavares portrays Mary Swanson with a true and moving humor. Her character is a woman who just moved into Middletown and is waiting for her husband to arrive. She quickly develops a friendship with her neighbor, John Dodge, played by Eric Riedmann. Their relationship is masterfully developed by Eno and the performances by Tavares and Riedmann are some of the best performances I have seen all year.
The performances given by the supporting actors are just as high quality as Tavares’ and Riedmann’s. Ray Tagavilla’s rendering of the Mechanic, a homeless man, is heart-wrenching and eye-opening. Tagavilla portrays addiction, desperation, and abandonment in the most perfect ways. Tagavilla is an immensely talented actor, and executes his role of sadness and hope in exactly the right way. This play containes many other astonishing performances such as Matthew Floyd Miller as an abusive cop, Sarina Hart as a doctor who becomes a drug supplier, and Marianne Owen as a librarian who reminds everyone of the hope and goodness innate in humans.
Throughout most of the first act a feeling of warmth and comfort pervades, but during the second act a new feeling of desperation and morbidity appears. The second act deals with suicide, drug addiction, and homelessness yet still manages to make you feel hopeful at the end of the play. Middletown reminded me of walking through a hospital at night, so many people are experiencing joy, while at the same time there is so much sorrow.
Through September 29th
Advance tickets are $15 for students at acttheatre.org
TeenTix are $5, day-of-show