It had been a while since I saw a professional theatre show at one of the big three Toronto playhouses dedicated to presenting new Canadian work (Factory Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille being the other two). I usually go to theatre festivals such as Fringe and Summerworks, attend contemporary dance shows and concerts at Harbourfront Centre and see operas at the COC, but I do not attend as much (non-musical, professional) theatre as I would like to.
Seeing Midsummer made me wonder why I had stayed away so long, and reminded me why I fell in love with theatre in the first place.
The show was marketed as a kind of romantic comedy; so I wasn’t sure what to expect, since that is not my favourite genre. I was therefore pleased to discover that while the show is romantic, it is by no means syrupy, cavity-inducing sweet.
The main characters are flawed, slightly cynical, world-weary people who have been-there-done-that as far as youthful romance goes. They are now a bit older – I would say mid 30s, and are not necessarily looking for romance when they happen to meet one midsummer’s night.
Bob (Brandon McGibbon) is a petty criminal and failed poet/musician. Helena (Carly Street) is a divorce lawyer in a failing relationship who drinks too much. They meet in a bar in Edinburgh, and are not each other’s type, but something draws them together. What starts as a one-night stand turns into a wild weekend of adventure and rap video-worthy spending sprees courtesy of a large amount of illicit cash that Bob acquires. Will the have a future past this wild midsummer’s night?
The two actors are wonderful. They play all of the characters in the show – not only Bob and Helena, but Helena’s nephew, Bob’s criminal boss, goth kids they meet in the park, et cetera. The actors also frequently explain the characters’ thoughts and set up situations for the audience. This is all done seamlessly.
The set consists of four metal trunks (the kind roadies use to put sound and lighting equipment in for shows). Two of the trunks are pink, and two are black, with the words “Mary,” “Jesus,” “Spike,” and “Buffy” printed on them. These trunks, with the help of a few simple props, become everything that is needed for the play – a bedroom, a bar, an expensive wine shop, the staircase outside of a church. The actors manage to arrange the trunks and props throughout the play while in character, and without missing a single beat.
The songs, performed mostly by Bob (Brandon McGibbon), are more like blues/pop tunes than musical theatre type songs. They work very well in the production and are often prefaced by Bob’s poetry, which I thought was quite good. In fact, I would like to get my hands on the script of this play for future reading.
Midsummer is like a tonic for the world-weary romantic. Highly recommended.
Midsummer is playing at Tarragon Theatre (30 Bridgman Ave, Toronto) until May 28th, 2017. Shows begin at 8pm nightly; matinees are on Sundays at 2:30pm.
For more information, visit the Tarragon Theatre website.
Photo of exterior of Tarragon: www.theatromania.ca/sites/default/files/imagecache/400×300/Tarragon.jpg