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Middletown at Little Lake Theatre

Eno may think he’s being moving and profound, but really he’s just twee and irritating

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I just read in the papers that Donald Trump Jr. is foregoing his Secret Service protection for “privacy” reasons. In a spasm of public service, he should donate his security detail to playwright Will Eno, because I’ve just seen his play Middletown in a Pittsburgh premiere at Little Lake Theatre, and if I run into Eno anytime soon, I’ll kill the son of a bitch.

Well, that’s 12 hours of my life I’m never getting back. (The fact that the play really lasts only two-and-a-half hours doesn’t make me any happier.) Middletown, which debuted in 2010, must be what Eno thinks Thornton Wilder’s Our Town would be like if Wilder didn’t have any talent. We’re in the middle of a very “middle America” small town filled with a lot of middlebrow people doing middling things and — with the exception of my blood pressure rising to dangerous levels — nothing happens.

Eno hasn’t really written a play, just a lot of nonsensical twaddle which basically boils down to “in the midst of life we are in death.” He may think he’s being moving and profound, but really he’s just twee and irritating. All of the non-differentiated characters sound like each other, which means you’ve got to listen to the playwright talk at you for 150 minutes. Here’s just one of the lines from the show. “I like plays where there’s a break in the middle. I met an oceanographer once, he painted our garage.” For an unforgivable two-and-a-half hours?

I hate to be so hard on this play, and I absolutely love that Little Lake regularly takes chances on producing work unfamiliar to local audiences. But this show is doing nobody any favors.

Ponny Conomos Jahn’s listless, twitchy direction doesn’t really illuminate the script, although I’d challenge anyone to try. And that this very large cast manages to get through it is nothing sort astounding. (Fainter hearts would have suddenly remembered a previous engagement.)

Eric Leslie, Mary Meyer and Bill Lyon gets props for slogging through the lead roles with strong support from, among others, Charlotte Sonne, Jonathan Wilson and Ned Salopek.


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