As I exited the Sandbox Theatre after the lights went down on Midsummer [A Play with Songs], my chief thought was: Now that’s more like it.
Midsummer is everything you want (but so rarely get) from theatre: lively, touching, funny as hell, artful without tipping over into crushing self-regard. Directed by Michael Scholar Jr., this is a promising start to the Globe Theatre’s 2013 Schumiatcher Sandbox Series.
David Grieg’s play charts the course of two characters over a weekend in contemporary Edinburgh: Helena (Amy Matisyo), a divorce lawyer trapped in an unsatisfying life, and “Medium” Bob (Clinton Carew), a man “without any distinguishing features” who runs petty errands on the fringes of Edinburgh’s criminal underworld. Both find each other at a tony bar. And then stuff happens, as it occasionally does.
What happens afterwards, told in overlapping and competing streams by the characters. The telling is half the action in Midsummer, as both interpret and re-interpret each other’s statements. It’s a charming riff on romantic badinage, but it’s also a hidden frequency running behind the comic pieces and the (sometimes literally) winking asides: the sharing of stories and jostling for truth speak to the essence of the relationship between the characters.
In theatre, giving your play a name like “Midsummer” is like placing a pair of crossed pistols on the wall. At some point, you’ve got to pull the trigger. Midsummer doesn’t go full Shakespeare, but vernal chaos reigns, and, as in the play to which Grieg pays homage, we enjoy the pleasures of storytelling and the spectacle of two people who are inexorably drawn to each other despite their differences.
Matysio and Carew pull off confident and agile performances, displaying genuine chemistry, firing off jokes and shifting registers, all the while chewing through Edinburgh accents. Matysio’s background in comedy stands her in good stead here as she slips into various characters: a teenaged boy, a thuggish security guard, a thuggish thug and so on. Carew is only called on to play one character, a self-described “piss artist” who dreams of busking through Europe despite knowing only one song (and a Jesus and Mary Chain song at that), but he invests the character with an irresistible charm.
Michael Scholar Jr.’s nimble direction makes the most of a minimal set and the limited space of the Sandbox Theatre, rapidly shifting tone and expecting the audience to keep up. Don’t miss out. Midsummer runs until October 27. Purchase your tickets online at the Globe’s website.