“We spend a lot of time thinking about the end and the beginning, in kind of self-aggrandizing ways. We talk about the miracle of birth and the mystery of death. But, by definition, all of our lives take place in the middle of those two sort of unknowable events, in this great and often unexamined middle. So I wanted to write a play that put some thoughts and feelings in the air about the miracle and the mystery and that alluded to deep and unknown forces. But then really just have people going to the store and fixing the sink and going through the normal things of looking for love and getting up in the morning. Because that’s how we live.”
Will Eno, talking about this play “Middletown” to the Boston Globe, 2013
Don’t expect high drama, low comedy or even a plot.
“Middletown,” The Rogue Theatre’s summer offering, is about life. The highs, the lows, the mundane.
“It covers a lot of murky subjects,” says Christopher Johnson, who is directing the production.
“It’s silly, fun, lighthearted, and life and death. It’s profoundly serious and fraught with mishaps and really a lot of fun when you look at it from the right angle.”
The play is about the comings and goings of the people in the nondescript town of Middletown. If it sounds like Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” it is. But it is not. The New York Times called it “Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation.”
Told through a series of connected vignettes, we follow the people in Middletown. A lonely newcomer whose husband is often away, a quirky librarian, a town cop with a mean streak, a tender doctor, a conflicted handyman — the town is populated with people we run into every day.
And yes, we watch them live and all that that implies. And that is the beauty of it, says Johnson.
“It’s about the profundity of the mundane,” he says.
“It’s life at its smallest and simplest, and that’s where truth and beauty are found. It’s in the little exchanges we have every day. There’s not a lot of action, drama. It’s about trying to live a normal life, or struggling to live a normal life.”
Eno explained it like this in that Boston Globe interview: “I wrote this play and mean it to be a kind of testament to the difficulty of consciousness, or a picture of the complications of the simplest life.”
That translates into a play that is hard to turn away from, says Johnson. “The thing that surprises me is how interesting the everyday aspects of life can be.”
And it’s a piece ready-made for Rogue audiences.
“It’s a perfect Rogue play because the language is difficult and engaging,” he says. “A good Rogue play really makes you work in your seats, and I think that’s what our audiences come for — an engaging script and something to think about when they leave. And that’s ‘Middletown’.”
And what is it he hopes audiences think about when they leave the theater?
“I want the audience to be reminded of themselves more than they are distracted from themselves,” he says. “I want it to be revelatory to them. That’s what theater should do and what this play does a really, really good job of.”