In some ways, I feel like my review of Middletown at ACT (in this week's paper) is too reserved.
I start out talking about the playwright Will Eno, what his plays are like, blah blah background blah. I did that in part because I haven't been too keen on Seattle productions of Eno plays in the past (one was at Seattle Rep, one was by the Satori Group—that review was titled "Will Eno Is Overrated"). I wanted to explain how Middletown, whose first act is phenomenally good—like, spooky good—was different from those other Eno productions. But in a different universe, or on a different week, the review might very well have started with: "Holy fucking shit you have to go see this play right now!"
I realized this two nights ago, when I was hanging out with a friend and we just couldn't stop talking about Middletown—Eno's fractured-reality riff on Thornton Wilder's Our Town but seen through the eyes of an astronaut, a cheerfully morbid librarian, a confused young housewife, a drunk mechanic, a poetically minded but brutal cop, a funny but depressed divorced man, and others.
We talked about our favorite lines, our favorite moments by our favorite actors, the way the script is almost Beckett-ish with one or two long monologues but mostly staccato bursts of short sentences that sound casual but are actually packed with meaning, what the deal was with the astronaut scene, how the first act was like watching a fireworks show if fireworks were made of words.
An we talked about the sometimes almost too cute—but ultimately totally enjoyable—wordplay in the nervous, epic curtain speech by R. Hamilton Wright:
Ladies, Gentlemen, all comers, newcomers, the newly departed, the poorly depicted, people who are still teething, who are looking for a helping verb, the quote beautiful, the unquote unbeautiful, whose bones are just so, whose veins are just so, the drunk, the high, the blue, the down, los pueblos, los animales, foreigners, strangers, bookworms, those whose eyes are tired from trying to read something into everything, those at a crossroads, in a crisis, a quandary, a velvety chair, the dirty, the hungry, yes, we the cranky, the thirsty, the furious, the happy, who are filled with life, bloated with it, gorged on words, and of course the bereaved, the bereft, and let's not forget the local merchants... infinitely injured people, lost souls, ghouls, ghosts, descendants, shades, shadows, future ancestors, Ladies, Gentlemen, I know I’m forgetting somebody, friends, likenesses, darknesses, citizens, people, hopeful people, hopeful people, everybody, every last lone dying and inconsolably lonely person, fellow human beings, breathing people, breathers, breathers... welcome. The fire exit’s over there.
And on and on and on. We couldn't shut up about it.
You should consider seeing Middletown. And remember—all day-of tickets bought in person at ACT are pay what you can, so you could see it for $5. Or less.