Nothing yells rom-com louder than meeting a stranger in a bar and proceeding to party for three days straight. Yet, although Midsummer, running at City Theatre, contains this, it penetrates deep into the human soul, creating a niche genre all its own. Medium Bob (Randy Redd), a petty thief who peaked in high school, meets Helena (Carey Van Driest) in a wine cellar in their home town of Edinburgh. Fate turns their one night stand into hedonistic debauchery in a climax that sparks laughter, and promotes self-reflection.
Playwright David Greig was born in Edinburgh and uses his intimate knowledge of the location to sustain a rich environment for his characters. He uses the literal Midsummer celebration to symbolize Bob and Helena’s proverbial midsummers, owing to their age of 35. He explores personal responsibility, aging, and what it means to live rather than exist in a new age. Greig’s deft writing explains this, combining sketch comedy with science. Masterfully, Greig integrates his themes into the narrative by utilizing the constant repetition of time in order convey the morbidity of time running out.
What truly propels Midsummer forward, however, is its method of narration. Redd and Van Driest narrate the stories through their characters point of view similar to a first person novel, then spring into sketches, acting events out as they take place. Van Driest proves herself a formidable actress here by playing many characters, juggling all of Bob’s lowlife friends while still being undeniably Helena. Although Redd is restricted to mostly Bob, he plays the part beautifully, making what should be an incredibly unlikable character seem like an old friend. A highlight of the play is a five minute conversation Bob has with his own genitalia, Redd playing both roles.
Billed as a play with songs, Midsummer uses music to provide emotional relief rather than to drive the narrative. In an odd turn of events however, the one song that narrates their hangovers may just be the most entertaining song in the play. Gordon McIntyre provided Midsummer with a completely acoustic score, with every song played onstage by Redd and Van Driest. The score accentuates the natural, emotional themes of the play without distracting from the rather fast paced action.
With a spartan set and a lavish backdrop consisting of a large piece of art, even the set provides a picture of the wealth dichotomy faced by Bob and Helena. The technical crew do a great job using different lighting effects to represent day and night, and they even provide a little prop humor. All of this stems from artistic director Tracy Brigden’s adept and creative mind for theatre.
Midsummer emanates creativity through its narrative devices, wonderful acting, and well thought direction. Although there are a few plot points that are shoved in haphazardly during the denouement, the show more than easily makes up for it by entertaining and dazzling the audience whilst managing to impart on them food for introspection. Alone or with a date, Midsummer is sure to please.
Midsummer runs through May 31st. Tickets and more information can be found here.
Special thanks to City Theatre for complimentary press tickets.
Performance Date: Saturday, May 16, 2015