Closing its 2013-14 season of funny and poignant contemporary two-handers with one-word titles (the excellent BLINK and TROUSERS—see Phindie reviews here and here, respectively—were the previous productions), Inis Nua presents the Philadelphia premiere of MIDSUMMER (A PLAY WITH SONGS). The perceptive rom-com musical by Scottish playwright David Greig and composer Gordon McIntyre follows the restless one-night stand and accidental next-day encounter of two lonely and hurting thirty-five-year-olds through sometimes raunchy but always amusing and insightful he said/she said accounts.
He is Bob, a petty thief who once aspired to be a rock-star and poet; she is Helena, a divorce lawyer having an affair with a married man. When she’s stood up by her paramour on Midsummer’s Eve, she picks up Bob in a wine bar for a night of escapist sex, then wakes up alone in her apartment with a killer hangover. Both narrate (in third person) and reenact (in first person) their own non-linear recollections of their wild weekend in Edinburgh, including their unsatisfying hook-up under the gaze of a stuffed Elmo toy, a spontaneous spending spree with stolen cash, an exhausting chase sequence through the city, and a visit to an after-hours bondage club, all interspersed with revealing live songs on accordion, strings, and percussion (backed by musical director/arranger Jamison Foreman on piano).
Charlie DelMarcelle and Liz Filios are perfectly matched as the mismatched Bob and Helena (or at least they try to convince themselves that they are a mismatch!). At first strident, disillusioned, and uncommitted, they appear increasingly vulnerable through the secrets they share, and come to the mutual realization that they are getting a little too old for their illicit juvenile antics. Under Kate Galvin’s sensitive direction, the two superb actors/musicians define characters who are decidedly flawed, but eminently human and likeable, bringing humor, depth, nuance, and growing self-awareness to their award-worthy performances, and to their distinctive portrayals of a host of secondary players in Bob and Helena’s story.
Kudos are also due to Inis Nua’s founding artistic director Tom Reing, who never fails to produce captivating plays that delight and inform, while both breaking and warming your heart. [Off-Broad Street Theater, 1636 Sansom St.] April 9-27, 2014, http://inisnuatheatre.org.