Theaterworks’ production of Midsummer (a play with songs) directed by Tracy Brigden is captivating from start to finish.
The two-person play, starring Rebecca Hart as Helena and M. Scott McLean as Bob—both making their Theaterworks debut—draws the audience in from the lovely opening song, “Love Will Break Your Heart” sung and strummed by Hart and McLean. The 95-minute, one-act play keeps us engaged throughout.
At a time when so much is not right with the world, this clever, funny, ultimately hopeful, romantic rendezvous is just what the doctor ordered.
Midsummer was written by two accomplished Scottish artists, indie rocker Gordon McIntyre of the ’90s band ballboy and playwright David Greig, whose plays have been performed by both the Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. After premiering in Scotland in 2009, the show has been produced at theaters throughout Europe.
It’s a story about two 30-something lost souls, who meet in an Edinburgh bar and appear to have nothing in common. Bob is performing petty crimes to get by and Helena’s a hardcore divorce lawyer. But the one thing they do have in common is their inability to commit to a relationship or find “the one.” Bob sees his life slipping by (yes, at 35—eeks!) and is tired of his own excuses for living a mediocre life. Helena is about to be a bridesmaid for the eighth time, with no end in sight. She hides behind cute little texts and sleeps with an Elmo doll, as though growing up is just too hard despite her professional successes.
They drink too much, have sex, and go on a wild adventure with some stolen money ($15,000) that Bob doesn’t deposit into a bank in time. He is on the run from his gangster boss. Helena is a willing accomplice, also on the lam—from her family, after arriving late to another wedding and screwing up the entire affair.
They hook up with an unlikely crew of Goth kids and a magical, carefree evening ensues, which includes drinking expensive wines, and top shelf liquor, eating lobsters, taxi racing, buying a pricy Gibson guitar for Bob and tambourines for the kids. They end up in a fetish club, all along denying that they’re falling for each other, while we watch the relationship slowly and subtly evolving.
The beauty of the production is that although scenic/costume designer Narelle Sissons’ set is limited to an abstract backdrop made up of junkyard items and the actors wardrobe never changes, except for a few accessories, it feels like a very full and never static performance.
Tracy Brigden’s artful direction brings to life the innovative script in which the characters play third person narrators, offering various story lines, and then smoothly take on the roles of themselves, both conversing with one another and expressing interior dialogues—Bob has a very amusing conversation with an unmentionable body part that tells him he’s tired of all the one-nighters and “just wants a pair of hands that will guide me through the years.”
They also play various other characters that they come in contact with—Bob plays Helena’s nerdy young nephew Brendan, Helena delightfully plays his gang boss Big Tiny Tom Callahan.
McIntyre’s wonderful songs and lyrics nicely performed by Hart and McLean, embellish the performance between scenes with reprises of the opening number and other heartfelt and humorous tunes including “The Hangover Song,” “Where are Your Wings Now?” “The Devil Always Knows the Way,” “We Can Do Anything Tonight,” and “There are only inches between us but there might as well be mountains and trees.”
The synergy between Hart and McLean is sweet and sincere and everything about Midsummer—including its well-balanced comedy and the angst, edginess, wisdom, and romance—makes it a perfect show to see on a hot August night and come away feeling pretty good about life.
Midsummer: A Play with Songs is at Theaterworks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford through Aug. 21. Call 860-527-7838 for tickets or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org