Through the past weekend, ETSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance performed their first play of the semester, Will Eno’s “Middletown.”
Directed by Professor Melissa Shafer, “Middletown” presents a witty commentary on life itself, performed in such a way that invites audiences to examine prominent themes in the show and connect them to nearly any individual experience outside of the theater.
The story of “Middletown” surrounds the lives of its citizens as they adapt to the static of the every day. Soon-to-be mother Mary, played by Kimberly Ireson, moves to Middletown and quickly forms a friendship with longtime resident John, played by Tyler Mitchell. From this point forward, as in most cases, life changes, and the audience finds itself just as along for the ride as any character within.
A standout factor of the performance is the actors’ ability to truly become their characters in more than just the lines they read. “Middletown” deals with much heavier themes than past theater performances this school year, including death, alcoholism and suicide, yet the cast is able to breathe their characters to life in ways that make each story line feel real.
Returning actor Gabe Felty played the role of Middletown’s ever-interesting police officer. This is a character that undergoes a significant personality change within the production that Felty was able to perform in a way that truly represents the dynamic nature of man.
“The opportunity within the character has been a process,” said Felty. “It’s been an arduous process but certainly very rewarding. I think that is true with most of the show; it’s just remarkably well-written. It’s about the human condition, and I don’t think you can get any better than that.”
The show resonated well with audience members, too.
“I really enjoyed it,” said theatre major Lucy McGee. “It’s a really interesting juxtaposition between life and death. It gave proper weight to the fact that a character died. It’s a story about how life goes on.”
McGee also made note of an interesting theatrical choice: There was no curtain call.
“I liked that there were no bows at the end,” she said. “It almost cements the fact that this is a show about real people. They aren’t going to come out and bow because this is just their lives.”
The key takeaway from the performance is the realization that we all live in Middletown. Our lives contain the stories that matter, from small talk at a local library to calling home from outer space.
Melissa Shafer’s Director’s Notes say it best.
“So, welcome to Middletown!” she writes. “Miracles happen here every day. We need only to look hard enough to see them.”