Sunday, December 28, 2014

Review of "MidSummer - A Play with Songs" - Apollinaire Theatre Company Launches Its New Season with a Bang and a Brogue!

Boston area theater companies have a propensity for producing Shakespeare plays and offering works based on some of the Bard's familiar pieces.  The A.R.T.'s Oberon has given us the long-running "Donkey Show," a disco extravaganza with a nod towards "A Midsummer Night's Dream."   Chelsea's trend-setting Apollinaire Theatre Company picks up on that ethos and offers David Greig and Gordon MacIntyre's madcap comedy "MidSummer" as the inaugural offering of its new season. Also using "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as a springboard, this play launches its two main characters into the deep end of a pool that contains enough turbulence and sharks to keep the audience on the edge of their seats at their cafe style tables.

Bob is a failed car salesman who has turned to petty crime to survive.  He is celebrating his 35th birthday and wondering where his life is heading.  Helen is an equally unhappy and lonely divorce attorney drowning her sorrows at a bar with an expensive bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.  She has been stood up by her married lover, and wants some company.  Seeing Bob sitting alone at the bar, she saunters over and offers to share her bottle - and by implication - her bed with this nondescript man "with no discernible distinguishing facial features."  Bob is so bland in appearance that his underworld cohorts call him "Medium Bob."

They repair to Helen's lair and together narrate a simulated sex scene that improbably involves Sesame Street's Elmo.  I was tickled!  What appeared to be only a one-night-stand that ends in hangovers all around tuns into far more.  The play is a mash-up of comedic styles and romantic comedy fodder.  Think of Shakespeare meets Eugene Ionesco with a dollop of "Once" and a dash of "Love Actually" thrown in for good measure.  The action is often interrupted by thematic songs about love (written by MacIntyre) song by Bob at the piano and/or Helen on ukulele..

The actors that Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques has chosen for this two-hander could not have been better cast.  Courtland Jones as Helen - and a few other characters - and Brooks Reeves as Bob - and a few other characters - are perfect in their execution individually and in the chemistry they convey.  Their flawless Scottish brogues speak well of this play's roots in Edinburgh, where the action is set.  These two actors have had a very good 2014.  Ms. Jones comes to this play from a very impressive role in the recent Bad Habit production of "The Real Thing," and Mr. Brooks also drew rave reviews for his role in Zeitgeist's recent production of "Bent."  The roles of Bob and Helen require a great deal of flexibility and stamina on the part of both actors.  At one point, Bob is on the run from one of his underworld bosses from whom he has purloined 15,000 Pounds Sterling.  You might call his pursuer a "rude mechanical." and the chase scene that takes Bob into the rafters and nether regions of the performance space is a highlight.  Another highlight is the forced conversation that Bob conducts with his own irate penis, urging Bob in no uncertain terms to think about growing up and settling down.  Ms. Jones is wonderful in portraying a complex mix of sultriness, longing, ennui and desperation.

The ending of the play which has Bob heading off the Belgium to fulfill his dream of performing as a busker across Europe is both enigmatic and touching.  It leaves the audience hanging and wondering what will become of this on-again off-again almost couple.
This production continues Apollinaire's strong track record of offering plays that make it desirable to cross the Tobin Bridge into Chelsea.  The play will run through January 11, with special holiday season performances daily through New Year's Eve.  Why not plan to spend the first part of New Year's Eve in Chelsea, then head back to Boston for the First Night activities and the midnight fireworks.  "MidSummer" offers plenty of fireworks of its own to get you in the mood.

Musical Direction - David Reiffel
Scenic Design - Nathan K. Lee
Lighting Design - Danielle Fauteux Jacques
Dialect Coach - Christopher Sherwood Davis

ApollinaireTheatre Company Website



$25, $20 advance purchase, $15 students

Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. 
Click for Directions
 or call 617-887-2336
Midsummer: Dec. 26-January 11
Fri. & Sat. at 8
Sun. at 3:00
Mon. Dec. 29, Tues. Dec. 30, Wed. Dec. 31 at 7:30

1 comment:

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