Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Custom Made Theatre Co.
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's recent reviews of Buyer & Cellar, An Act of God and On Clover Road and Patrick's recent reviews of Time Stands Still and Boeing Boeing

Ted Zoldan and Justin Gillman
Photo by Jay Yamada
Watching the Custom Made Theatre Co. production of Will Eno's Middletown reminded me of the small town I grew up in the western part of Ohio. This is another wonderful play about ordinary life in a small town, and undoubtedly it is a successor of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. What makes it interesting is Will Eno's thoughtful comments on the citizens of this small community. This is a pitch-perfect production under the sharp direction of Brian Katz with an excellent large cast of actors.

Middletown opens, like Our Town, with a droll, all-embracing prologue delivered by Malcolm Rodgers with articulate gusto ("Middletown, Population: stable. Elevation: same. The main street is called Main Street. The side streets are named after trees. Things are fairly predictable. People come, people go."). Suddenly, a strange mechanic with a monotone voice comes onto the stage speaking nonsense. You get the idea he is not right in the head. He is senselessly attacked by a policeman for no apparent reason. This is followed by a whole line-up of other inhabitants of Middletown who include divorced handyman John, newcomer to town Mary, an apathetic tour guide, a librarian, tourists, and a landscaper who plants trees.

Middletown is a series of seamless vignettes, thanks to the direction of Brian Katz. The play centers on Mary and John's relationship, especially in the second act, and also on the troubled Mechanic who does not have a name. The first act of Middletown is a masterpiece and the second act is a good play with some great moments. The two hour, two act drama is a subtle, poignant, and cynical walk to nowhere.

The large cast does excellent work, especially Justin Gillman as the Mechanic. He gives an outstanding performance with his monotonic babble. Cary Cronholm Rose as Mary and Fred Pitts as John are excellent in their roles. The conversations between them are pitch perfect. Jean Forsman gives a beautiful performance as the Librarian while Ted Zoldan is engaging as the Cop. Malcolm Rodgers gives a splendid presentation as the narrator, astronaut, and a doctor. Also excellent in various roles are Ashley Cowan, Gabriella Jarvie, Catherine "Cat" Luedtke, Rowan Rivers, Leah S. Abrams, and Jessica Jade Rudholm.

Will Eno places emphasis more on the language than on shared sensory proficiencies. He is an absurdist with a contemporary awareness.

Middletown runs through April 23rd, 2016, at the Custom Made Theatre Co., 540 Sutter Street, Second Floor, San Francisco. Coming up next is John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation opening on May 19th. For tickets, visit or call 415-798-2682.

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