Mary Swanson just moved to Middletown. About to have her first child, she is eager to enjoy the neighborly bonds a small town promises. But life in Middletown is complicated: neighbors are near strangers and moments of connection are fleeting.
“Middletown” starts off with an actor coming out and doing essentially the opening, which welcomes everybody, which goes on for probably 10 or 12 minutes without a pause and it’s brilliant. Unfortunately, the rest of the play doesn’t hold up as well as the introduction. The story is of a couple, John and Mary — she’s married, he is a ne’er do well — and they sort of fall in like. He comes and cleans out her plumbing, and she has a baby. I don’t even know if that’s supposed to be Freudian or not. And along the way, we have miscellaneous characters, and a birth, and a death, and a suicide attempt, and an audience, and a doctor. I think this was an attempt to be a modern version of “Our Town”, but it doesn’t quite work. And Middletown, maybe it’s between heaven and hell or between earth and heaven. I don’t know what it was really meant to be, particularly. And that’s part of the problem. Some of the writing is very smart. I just didn’t quite get it, and I don’t think most of the audience did either. And it’s not really the fault of the actors, I think they were probably as lost as we were. So I’ll give it two stars, mostly on the basis of creativity.