Although Theatre Ink’s new fall production, Middletown, seemed like an ordinary play about a small town, it addressed deep questions about birth, death, and what is means for the lives burning bright in between.
The talented cast of Middletown, directed by Spanish teacher Dan Fabrizio, performed in the auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1, 2, and 3. The script was originally written by acclaimed playwright Will Eno and centers around the daily lives of the inhabitants of a small American suburb.
“It’s a very, very cool play. It’s kinda trippy, it’s fun, it’s sad, and it’s very emotional,” said sophomore Dylan Fort, who played the town mechanic. Indeed, Middletown lived up to Fort’s statement, with its morbid humor, unexpected interactions with the audience, and theoretical monologues.
Using both humor and lyricism, Middletown showcased a variety of eccentric characters dealing with everyday circumstances in a mundane suburban town. However, as strange as the characters may be, they grappled with relatable, everyday issues.
“Middletown tells very real human stories in a very interesting way,” said senior Lucas Pratt, who played John Dodge, a handyman struggling with anxiety and depression, “I think everyone could identify to a little bit of at least one of the characters.”
The show opened with a long monologue given by junior Casey Weaver welcoming all audience members to the play. The humorous speech introduced the characters of the town, including groups of oddly specific individuals such as ‘local dignitaries’ and ‘animal lovers.’
Then, the curtain is drawn to a scene where the mechanic sat idly on a bench while a police officer, played by sophomore Zander Gilmartin, made his rounds.
“We have an incredible crew here who made the set possible and were able to bring the whole world of Middletown to life,” said the stage manager, sophomore Megan White. The beautifully built set of stores, houses, and benches lent a cozy, small-town feel to the stage.
However, troubling philosophical questions soon clashed with the warmth of the town. Newcomer Mary Swanson, played by junior Leyla Davis, is thrown into an existential crisis when she makes a visit to the library for a card.
“Good for you, dear,” said the smiling librarian, who is played by sophomore Marley Craine, “I think a lot of people figure, ‘Why bother? I’m just going to die, anyway.’”
“I think the show really has a lot of different interesting themes that people can look out for,” said White, “It’s really a show that makes you think about life and our world that we have here in Middletown.”
From there, the play led into a series of scenes and matter-of-fact monologues about life and death and everything in between. From John, the handyman, fixing Mary’s sink while she appreciates how lucky she is to be alive, to the mechanic discussing what he wants from life while rooting through the disposal for pills, Middletown peeled back the layers of a picturesque small town disguise to reveal something more far-reaching.
“There are some points in the show where there are people contemplating life, the beginning of something, or the end of something,” said Pratt, “But it really focuses on the in-between and the middle of everything.”
One of the most touching scenes of the play was when John and Mary lay in hospital beds on opposing sides of the stage. They were both in the hospital for vastly different reasons: John was dying, while Mary was giving birth. Meanwhile, the mechanic danced in the middle as he is choosing costumes for his performance, living in between birth and death.
“I think two of the most powerful scenes in the play are scenes that really exemplify the idea of beginnings and endings,” said Craine, “The two main characters, John and Mary, both experience important beginnings and endings in their lives. John passes away at the end of the play, around the same time that Mary gives birth.”
Everything from the lighting to the music perfectly encapsulated the surreal atmosphere as the parallel between birth, life, and death is drawn. The lighting was warm for Mary and cold for John, and the music blasted as the mechanic whirls around.
The audience is left thinking about the questions and problems the characters faced in the play. What makes life worth living? What is birth? What is death? And most importantly, what is in between?
“Especially as high schoolers, we think about beginnings and the ends like ‘when’s something going to start’ and ‘when’s it going to end,’” said Pratt, “But I want this show to make people think about the process of how it happens instead, or the middle.”