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“Midsummer (a play with songs)”

TheaterWorks

 

“Midsummer (a play with songs),” David Greig and Gordon McIntyre’s entirely lovable and romantic work, that originally premiered in Scotland in 2008, is currently receiving a fine production at TheaterWorks.  Featuring a cast of just two people, one man and one woman, “Midsummer” brings to mind a number of different love stories, though it rightfully stands on its own as a distinctly unique play.  The couple is played by M. Scott McLean, as Bob, and Rebecca Hart, as Helena, and the story of this work is essentially how they meet and somehow forge a relationship, despite a number of factors that could drive them apart.  The show is also punctuated by melodic songs, which only add to the romantic nature of the play.  “Midsummer (a play with songs),” at TheaterWorks may just be the perfect “date” show to see and it revives the beauty of two people falling in love.

The work that most came to mind when watching “Midsummer” is “Once,” both the movie and the musical.  “Once” also features an unlikely couple meeting and trying to strike up a relationship, with the use of songs highlighting their romantic journey.  “Midsummer,” however, adds other layers to its love story, and feels completely fresh.  In this play, Bob and Helena meet at a pub in Edinburgh, resulting in a great deal of drinking, followed by what seems will be a one-night-stand.  What makes “Midsummer” especially interesting and special it that there is much more to this couple’s story and relationship beyond a drunken night together.

I would hate to give away too much more of the plot of this show, because a good deal of the pleasure in watching “Midsummer” is in the unexpected twists and turns of this couple’s story together.  It can be said that TheaterWorks has found the perfect pair of actors to enact this romantic tale.  As Helena, Rebecca Hart plays a lawyer and she is charming and funny throughout.  M. Scott McLean is grand as Bob and matches his costar ideally, playing a sort of shady con man who, nonetheless, deep down, possesses a sense of morality.  These two characters should never be right for each other at all and, yet, “Midsummer” spins out its unlikely love story with grace and elegance.

A good deal of the credit for how well this play works must go to director Tracy Brigden, who has elicited terrific performances from her two actors and who also keeps the show consistently entertaining and surprising.  The director also works wonderfully with her designers, particularly Narelle Sissons, who is responsible for both the scenic and costume design.  “Midsummer” is performed on a relatively simple stage, with a wildly abstract and artistic background that seems to suit this story perfectly.  There is also expert lighting design by Andrew Ostrowski and Elizabeth Atkinson’s sound design is crystal clear, especially in the moments when the two performers are playing acoustic guitars and singing.

Of course, without strong writing, none of this would work, and David Greig and Gordon McIntyre can be congratulated in coming up with a gem of a romantic story that makes one feel anew just how wonderful it is to fall in love.  Indeed, in “Midsummer (a play with songs)” one truly roots for Helena and Bob to form a connection, and there is a great deal of humor and lovely music along the way, which only makes this show that much more irresistible.  “Midsummer (a play with songs),” at TheaterWorks, is most highly recommended, especially to anyone who has been in love and would like to bask in the glow of that feeling once more.

“Midsummer (a play with songs)” continues performances at TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT through August 21, 2016.  For tickets, please visit www.theaterworkshartford.org or call the box office at 860-527-7838.

Photo: M. Scott McLean and Rebecca Hart

Photo by Lanny Nagler

 

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