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Midsummer (A Play With Songs) at City Theatre

A comedy/romance provides a pleasant escape

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Carey Van Driest and Randy Redd in Midsummer at City Theatre - PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTI JAN HOOVE
  • Photo courtesy of Kristi Jan Hoove
  • Carey Van Driest and Randy Redd in Midsummer at City Theatre

The first syllable lays out the theme of Midsummer, wrapping up the season for City Theatre. Subtitled "A Play With Songs," the 2008 Scottish comedy/romance is set in Edinburgh on the weekend of the summer solstice, which more northerly types celebrate as Midsummer or St. John's Day: the longest day/shortest night of the year. (Yes, Edinburgh is about as far north as Juneau, Alaska, and Moscow, Russia. Sunset is after 10 p.m., dawn before 5 a.m.)

The play by David Grieg and Gordon McIntyre also pegs a pair of Edinburghers facing their respective mid-life crises — at age 35. (Please. Thinking life is all downhill after 35 is more than a trifle jejune.) And continuing the "mid" meme, the nondescript hero is known as "Medium Bob" and the heroine, Helena, is at best a middlin' lawyer. Unlikely to meet in the ordinary course of life, the unlikely couple plows through a wacky "lost weekend" collecting hangers-on, adventures and stories to be rehashed and embellished for the rest of their lives. (Actually, drunken parties with a lot of lights are standard St. John's Day fare.)

City artistic director Tracy Brigden handles a deft two-person cast and talented design/tech team with a light touch and humor. There are occasional chuckles and some real guffaws as Midsummer explores life and love. But, alas, at nearly two hours without an intermission, and so many references to Edinburgh geography and slang unfamiliar to most in the audience, Midsummer does not harbor rapt attention. The delicate pace cannot be rushed. The characters go forward, back. Further forward. Further back. The Firth of Forth.

Carey Van Driest adds charm to the less-than-respectable Helena, and morphs into a delightful variety of supporting characters, especially the thugs. Opposite her as the bland rapscallion, Randy Redd moves through Bob's changes and redds up (sorry) the rest of the multi-cast personae.

Musically simple, the "songs with(in) the play" help to delineate the inner lives evolving within Helena and Bob. Midsummer provides a pleasant escape from a hotter Pittsburgh summer.

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