Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 25, 2016

Midsummer (a play with songs)

Theaterworks,Hartford, CT 
through August 21, 2016
by Stuart Gamble

Summer in New England offers a bounty of artistic endeavors: outdoor concerts, festivals of all kinds, and of course, top-notch theater. “Midsummer” (a play with songs), written by Brit David Greig and Scotsman Gordon McIntyre is no exception. As its title suggests, this delightfully funny and romantic play offers us a pair of mismatched lovers and a magical evening that transforms their lives, just as it did in Shakepeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

In an Edinborough wine bar Bob (M. Scott McClean), a petty criminal, who reads Dostoyovsky’s “Notes from Underground” (as he says “to cheer himself up”), meets Helena (Rebecca Hart), a successful but lonely divorce lawyer. We learn about their budding relationship through a series of hilarious and poignant vignettes. Both Bob and Helena take turns at narrating events. As Helena puts it: “Bob expresses the feelings in the story while I tell the truth.” Director Tracy Brigden shows these contrasting viewpoints through a series of rewinds and replays of key events in a manner reminiscent of “Groundhogs’ Day.” Their, at times, tumultuous relationship ends at a point of satisfaction for both characters and audience members alike.

M. Scott McClean and Rebecca Hart perform a sheer tour de force in this 100-minute, non-stop mini-marathon of pure theater. They are both agile, physical comedians, as is evident in a scene where they simulate their first night of lovemaking; both standing upright, holding a blanket over them as they simultaneously shake and quiver, much to the audience’s delight. Both McClean and Hart are masters of dialect as well. Their Scottish brogues are extremely authentic, particularly McClean’s, whose thicker accent conveys his working-class background. Additionally, both are able musicians, strumming guitars and ukuleles, while warbling the show’s thematic song, “Love will break your heart.”

The impressive, yet gargantuan set is such an oversized pile of old furniture, bicycles, and junk that it detracts from the intimacy of the show’s central relationship. Designer Narelle Sissons not only designed this, but also the simple, contemporary costumes consisting of leather and denim jackets that perfectly reflect the lifestyle of these thirty-somethings.