by Lynn on April 29, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

Brandon McGibbon, Carly Street. (photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

At the Tarragon Theatre, Mainspace, Toronto, Ont.

Written by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre
Composed by Gordon McIntyre
Directed by Tamara Bernier Evans
Set by Graeme S. Thomson
Costumes by Kathleen Johnston
Lighting by Nick Andison
Musical director, Samuel Scott
Cast: Brandon McGibbon
Carly Street

A sweet and prickly play about finding love (maybe) in the wrong place with the wrong person.

The Story. Helena is stylish, a successful lawyer but a disaster in her personal life. She drinks too much on the weekends and usually passes out from it and is not lucky in love.
She’s in a bar in midsummer in Edinburgh and it’s raining (of course) and she’s waiting for her date. While waiting she orders an expensive bottle of wine. And then she gets the text that the guy isn’t coming.

She sees Bob at another table across the room, reading. Bob is 35, long hair, dishevelled a petty criminal who is waiting to hear about selling a stolen car. He’s reading while he waits. Helena approaches him with the line, “What are you reading?” He says, “Dostoyevsky.” (I’m not making this up…they do weird and wonderful things in Edinburgh. She suggestions they share the expensive bottle of wine.

There’s clever banter about what she says and what she means….Bob tells us she means sex. They get drunk and go back to her place for sex. And the weekend goes from there. They know this is casual and not serious. Both characters are convinced that they are not a good match. But they don’t just walk away.

The Production. While the announcements are made about turning off your cell phone and enough with the candy wrappers, there is a loud banging at a door just up stage. The door is opened and a man and a woman enter breathless, hauling substantial trunks and guitar cases. They say they will get set up quickly and we watch at they shift the trunks and unpack stuff and set up two guitars and get things arranged. I’m not sure what this means—is this a play within a play? Is it the playwright David Grieg indicating that the set up is simple? Is it the director Tamara Bernier Evans deciding this? Don’t know. It’s not a distraction; I just want to know what I’m looking at.

Brandon McGibbon as Bob has slumped body language but a sweetness that suggests Bob is not a dangerous thug as much as he is a misguided man. And he reads Dostoyevsky so he has something going there. Carly Street as Helena is in a smart, black frock, ready for her date. She is striking, confident and also at loose ends in her life. Later she will put on a yellow frock ready to go to her sister’s wedding, but then she gets drunk then sick on herself, and well, it doesn’t go as planned.

The most important thing is that I’m looking at two gifted actors play two wounded characters who are full of wit, humour and oodles of stage business that make us fall in love with them. Both play guitar and sing beautifully, and their chemistry in playing together is lovely.

Often when the characters talk to each other directly one of them will look to the audience and explain what they really mean. It is fast paced with an ever increasing momentum until Bob and Helena realize that sometimes they have to slow down and just walk and talk.

Tamara Bernier Evans keeps the swirl of activity going but also creates moments of wonderful tenderness.

Comment. David Greig has written a crisp, funny, sweet play that takes place in rainy Edinburgh so the humour is of a particular type. Gordon McIntyre has written the songs that don’t so much move the story along as much as they sum up an atmosphere or feeling of the characters. The songs are mournful and charming. Midsummer is a quirky, sweet play with two dynamite performances.

Tarragon Theatre presents:

Opened: April 26, 2017.
Closes: May 28, 2017.
Cast: 1 man, 1 woman.
Running Time: 90 minutes approx.

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