Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Middletown
West Boca Theatre
Review by Cindy Pierre | Season Schedule

Also see John's reviews of Sister Act and The Who's Tommy


Peter Galman, Angie Radosh, Barbara Bradshaw,
and Peter Librach

Photo by George Wentzler
In a post-election, tense time in America where friendships have been severed, families have been divided, and other relationships have been strained, Middletown, a new play by award-winning playwright Dan Clancy (not to be confused with Will Eno's recent play by the same name), spreads on the heart and spirit as smooth as butter. Set in and around Middletown, New Jersey, this chronicle of friendships and marriages that survive challenges, changes and calamities during a span of 44 years is a welcome beacon of light and warmth. However, in this West Boca Theatre world-premiere production, there are a few hurdles to overcome.

Firstly, although director Peter Pileski does an admirable job of breathing life into this presentation, it is a staged reading, not a full-scale production. With nothing but a chair, podium and script to accompany each actor, the tale of how the lives of two couples, Tom (Peter Galman) and Peg Hogan (Angie Radosh) and Don (Peter Librach) and Dottie Abrams (Barbara Bradshaw), interweave and influence each other could have been stunted in the hands of a lesser cast. Luckily, the stellar performances of this quartet almost make you forget that there are no bells, whistles or pomp.

Secondly, there is the passing of time. Although lighting designer Sean Cutler frames the show beautifully and sometimes cues the passage of time, you will have to suspend your disbelief as the characters age from 1976-2020. Except for telling dialogue that declares exactly how old some of the characters are and scenes that depict life changes and stages, there is no visual metamorphosis—no costume changes or greying of hair takes place. This may pose as a problem for those who are seeking a little sensation, but still doesn't mar an otherwise compelling, funny and heartfelt story.

Middletown is a universal depiction of love and loss, but it may appeal more to a mature audience than millennials. Centered on characters who age from their 30s to 80s with very little deviation, patrons who are younger than that may find it hard to relate. However, Clancy infuses his script with enough heart for everyone. Whether it's one of Dottie's humorous quips or the gravitas of one of Peg's lines, Middletown is profound and takes you on a journey from beginning to end.

The intimate space in the Beifield Auditorium at the Levis JCC Sandler Center enables the patrons to experience the world that Clancy has created like the microcosm or slice of life that it is intended to be. Every loving exchange between Tom and Peg is magnified. The comfortable, funny banter between Dottie and Don is made palpable. Clancy does a good job of providing solid, two-person scenes across relationships. Everyone's joys and heartbreaks can almost be touched.

Despite a look back at 44 years, Middletown teaches us lessons about the here and now—how to rejoice, cry, repair, persevere, and most importantly, to not "wait for a tragedy. Be very generous with loving."

The West Boca Theatre production of Middletown will be appearing through December 18th, 2016, at Levis JCC Sandler Center located at 21050 95th Avenue South, Boca Raton, FL 33428. Show times are Thursdays and Sundays at 2:00pm and Thursdays and Saturdays at 7:30pm. For tickets and information please call 561-588-2512 or visit levisjcc.org/culture/music_theater.

Cast:
Peg Hogan (ages from 37 to 82): Angie Radosh*
Tom Hogan (ages from 41 to 83): Peter Galman*
Dottie Abrams (ages from 35 to 75): Barbara Bradshaw*
Don Abrams (ages from 39 to 72): Peter Librach

Crew:
Director: Peter Pileski
Lighting Design: Sean Cutler
Stage Manager: Alan Nash
Producer: Myrna Loman

*The actor appears through the courtesy of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United of States.


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