Middletown – Archmere Academy in Claymont, DE.
November 8, 2015
Review submitted by Emma Lewis of Agnes Irwin School
Birth, death, what happens in the middle? What does it mean to be loved? How lucky are we to be alive, making rotations on a hunk of rock made of deceased stars, shuttling at a thousand miles per hour through space, revolving around a gaseous ball of flaming energy? Middletown lyrically examines each of these monumental questions through its handful of characters.
Described as a modern-day Our Town, Middletown examines the simplicity of life with a cosmic and existential twist. Middletown is a conspicuously normal arcadia, containing a set of rather unexceptional characters, each of which has an unusually acute understanding of their own mortality. The budding relationship between Mary Swanson and John Dodge acts as the focal point of the play, each vignette alludes to their growing amity in both obvious and discreet ways.
Despite Will Eno’s poetic, extistential, and difficult script, Archmere’s cast completed the show with superb timing and animated characters.
The dynamic between Mary Swanson, played by Catherine Lawless, and John Dodge, played by Eli Hunsinger, was remarkable. Hunsinger’s timing and emotion brought life to their odd and sometimes awkward friendship. Lawless’s acting perfectly mirrored how any average person would react to John Dodge’s anxiety driven awkwardness. Together, Swanson and Hunsinger’s acting made the play intimate and relatable.
The cop, played by Keelin Reilly, was a presence that produced a perturbed setting for the play to unfold. Reilly’s stage presence was perceptible and his voice carried undertones that perfectly explained his character’s actions. The guest speaker, played by Jackie Kraft, excited the audience with a comedic and inclusive welcome to as many categories of patrons as possibly present. Kraft’s inflection animated her character and modeled good timing with her pensive pauses. The librarian, played by Giavanna Mariano, was wonderful to watch. She embodied her character in an eccentric and energetic way that made her exceptionally exciting to watch. Malcolm Odum tackled the difficult task of representing Middletown’s mechanic. His acting made the audience lean in, waiting for his next outburst of emotion or insight. Lt. Gregg, played by Ariana Abbrescia, served as a calm before the storm of the second act. Her wonder at the simple existence of humanity and the Earth was palpable, giving the play a celestial, dreamy atmosphere.
With the use of a simple set and engaging acting, Archmere Academy completed a challenging production that examined how extraordinary all the simple things are.
Review submitted by Eden Halterman of Academy of the New Church
After you leave before, and before you can get to after, you must remain somewhere in between: the middle, or in this case, Middletown, a run-of-the-mill American small town, representing the intangibility of human life. This story of life’s contrasts, whether it be between rich and poor, happiness and depression, or life and death, was brought to the stage in Archmere Academy’s production of Middletown.
Middletown, first produced Off-Broadway in 2010, and written by modern playwright Will Eno, leads us through the small-town lives of the inhabitants and visitors of Middletown. The play is told in a series of poignant vignettes, dealing with the creation of life, the end of life, and everything in between.
Archmere Academy’s production of Middletown was energetic and engaging, effortless in its inclusion of both humor and solemnity, and was driven by a versatile ensemble of characters.
Catherine Lawless led the show with her sincere portrayal of Mrs. Mary Swanson, a newcomer to Middletown, just settling in to begin a family there. Her simple curiosity and optimism complemented Eli Hunsinger’s disjointed hopelessness, in his portrayal of the town’s drifter, John Dodge. Their chemistry and interplay brought the play humor, honesty, and true emotion.
Even beginning before the show, as the characters spread out throughout the theater and interacted with the audience, each supporting actor impressively maintained their commitment to the integrity and identity of their role. Keelin Reilly especially stood out with his portrayal of the rough, yet well-meaning cop, as well as Giavanna Mariano, playing the librarian with earnestness and humor. Each character helped to construct the contrast between the mundanity, yet complexity of life, and though at times actors stumbled over their lines, any obstacle was balanced out by the energy, strength, and creativity of the performers.
While the production’s sets, lighting, sound, and costumes were kept minimalistic, each subtle detail added to the authenticity of the performance. The show’s management and crew, led by Victoria Cocco, quickly and effortlessly transitioned between scenes, bringing us a simple window frame to suggest an entire home, or a chair and a space suit, taking us all the way out to outer space.
Archmere Academy’s production of Middletown, brought to life by the cast’s passion, energy, and candidness, proved to us that despite life’s unpleasantries and absurdities, “it’s not rare, but it’s lucky, to be human.”