Midsummer (a play with songs) is running at the Tarragon Theater through May 28th, 2017. Set in Edinburgh, Midsummer follows Helena (Carly Street) and Bob (Brandon McGibbon) two people in their mid-thirties on an equal part romantic and comedic weekend bender.
Now what exactly is a play with songs? No it is not a musical. Instead of using songs to progress the story, the songs are tied to the main themes of the story and help to fill time as sets and props are being moved about.
The script written by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre, takes two rather un-charming characters and slowly crafts them to the point that they are fully fleshed out and easily relatable. Helena and Bob’s insecurities and wants make themselves more and more obvious as the play progresses opening them up to audience empathy.
The script really excels in its use of different novelties that help to set this play apart from other romantic comedies. Use of third-person monologues describing in detail how each character is experiencing the scene was able to add a lot of comic relief as well as helped the audience see the world through the characters point-of-view. Audience participation was also a fun way to engage with the audience and a welcome use of the small theater.
Staging was excellent. They made use of the small stage area as well as aisles and fire exits. It can be difficult to create such varying sizes of sets without the use of props and with so little space. But they succeeded in creating believable space between characters in separate places and were even able to create a believable chase scene.
Where this play falls short is in the transfer of scenes. With only two actors who are on stage at all times and no stagehands, the flow from one scene to the next was sometimes interrupted by a break to set-up the props for the following scene. There were several times throughout the play where immersion was broken because the pause between scenes was just a bit too long.
There is an attempt to make the play much deeper than it is by addressing the idea of, “is this it? Is this all I am going to be?” But the idea is never touched on enough to turn this play into a think piece about growing older. Instead it came off as rushed and just kind of added in as a second thought. Although this didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the play it really had no need to be included, especially when a lighthearted comedy is so rare to find on a Toronto stage this theater season.
Overall, Midsummer is a well-acted and charming night out with jokes that are actually funny, lovely music and an underlying message of, “this is who you are, but that doesn’t need to be a bad thing.” I would rate it a ¾.