Apollinaire Theatre Company Artistic Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques’ deft direction and subtle lighting effects, coupled with Boston actors Brooks Reeves and Courtland Jones’ meticulous timing, compatible chemistry, versatile acting and musical skills, are the driving forces behind the theater’s season-opening, one-act play with music, “Midsummer”.
Don’t confuse “Midsummer” with musicals. According to lyricist Gordon MacIntyre, his songs merely “express what the characters are feeling and thinking”.
The romantic comedy premiered in late October 2008 at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland, and a 2009 revived version has been performed internationally since then.
At Apollinaire, Reeves and Jones maintain a frenetic pace, portraying main characters Bob and Helena, and a wide range of secondary characters, including smalltime criminal Big Tiny Tam Callaghan and his henchman son; Helena’s nameless, reluctant lover; and her tantrum-throwing 12-year-old nephew, Brendan; and a surprise person. They’re kept running from one musical instrument to another, located between set designer Nathan K. Lee’s black, block steppingstones and platforms, a centrally located double bed, and a few other strategically-placed props. They keep the audience entertained and involved by interactive eye contact and narrating directly to theatergoers seated nearby, on three sides, at small cabaret tables. Before the show opens, Reeves enlists four theatergoers to each ask a prepared question later in the play, and several eager participants raise their hands to help.
Greig and MacIntyre’s play is breezily enjoyable, especially to the thirtysomethings in the audience who identify somewhat with these two main characters, who are undergoing early onset middle life crisis at 35 years old. Beautiful, independent, flamboyant Helena (Jones) is a successful divorce lawyer who’s having a regrettable affair with a married man. He keeps promising to meet with her, but is a no-show, full of excuses. She drinks a lot, has been the proverbial bridesmaid several times, and secretly sleeps with a stuffed Elmo, who blurts out, “I want a cuddle”.
Upset that her lover has left her waiting in a pub, she spies Bob (Reeves), a man with “undefined features,” (he says), who has done nothing with his life. He tells us he’s a storyteller. In 1996, he was a bright star in high school,and it has been all downhill since then. To his credit, he’s reading Dostoyevsky, but laments that on his 35th birthday, he’s an unsuccessful car salesman aligned with a stolen car criminal, and that he’d rather be troubadouring and busking around Europe, singing and strumming a guitar on streets. When he and Helena meet the first time in Edinburgh and end up drunk, in her bed, having wild, crazy sex, their morning after is filled with hangover remorse and awkward self-consciousness. The unlikely duo can’t fathom how they ended up together, but they managed to fill a sudden need.
Bob can’t understand why the beautiful, successful Helena would have approached him to begin with; and,frankly, she can’t, either.
When they meet later by chance at a church, where Helena is a hungover bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding and Bob is seeking refuge from criminals chasing him, they realize they have a lot in common, and need something else in their lives. Bob suggests splurging with a $15,000 cash payment he received for a stolen car, and running away together for the weekend. It may not last, but they’re having a helluva time in the meantime- a funky, roman holiday, drinking it up, lounging in the finest hotel room in town, getting hung up - literally - in a Japanese bondage club, and experiencing other episodic, life-changing events in rainy, gloomy Edinburgh. They also reveal more about themselves, forging a closer bond.
“Midsummer” is no rainy walk through the park. Besides taking theatergoers on an intimate, wacky roller coaster ride of middle-age angst, Brooks Reeves and Courtland Jones shine brightly on stage, unleashing their musical, comedic and acting chops. That alone is worth the price of admission.
BOX INFO: Two-person, one-act, 95-minute play with songs, written by David Greig and singer-songwriter Gordon MacIntyre, appearing with Apollinaire Theatre Company through Jan. 11, at Chelsea Theatre Works, 189 Winnisimmet St., Chelsea. Performances: Friday, Saturday, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.; post-show reception with the actors and director in the Gallery. Tickets:$25 at the door; advance tickets, $20; students, $15. Call 617-887-2336 or visit www.apollinairetheatre.com.