‘Middletown’ encapsulates the comedy and tragedy of life

 

left to right Adrian Zmed, Sandy Duncan, Kate Buddeke in Middletown. (Photo courtesy of GFrour Productions)
left to right Adrian Zmed, Sandy Duncan, Kate Buddeke in Middletown. (Photo courtesy of GFrour Productions)

3.5 stars

Be prepared to laugh and cry If you go to see “Middletown,” a GFour touring production now at the Apollo Theater.

Written by “Timekeepers” playwright, Dan Clancy, the play’s strength is how it captures some of life’s funny moments and extreme low points as they are experienced and shared by two couples.

Audiences are bound to find a character, a moment, a situation they can relate to no matter their age as Peg and husband Tom and Peg’s childhood friend, Dotty, and her husband Don, become friends and then supporters through life’s travails.

They grow on you the audience as they grow on each other while meeting for dinner, and as Dotty would say, “drinks” for 33 years.

Clancy’s witty dialogue and characterizations cover the gamut from phrases people recognize as closing marital statements such as “Forget it” and “Never mind” to such thoughts when older as not remembering what you know or if you knew it and wondering if you really need that item you just dropped.

The show also breaks the fourth wall with asides and questions to the audience that begin when Peg introduces the cast when the play starts. As to cast, that changes with some staying on as the show tours the U.S.

Left to right Adrian Zmed and Donny Most in Middletown (Edison Graff photo for GFour Productions)
Left to right Adrian Zmed and Donny Most in Middletown (Edison Graff photo for GFour Productions)

Donny Most (Ralph Malph of Happy Days) as Don is a terrific foil for Dotty’s nuttiness. He and Adrian Zmed (Romano in T”J Hooker) who portrays an introspective Tom, appear in more than one tour stop in 2019 and 2020.

Golden Globe and Tony nominee Sandy Duncan (remembered as Peter Pan), assumes the role of Peg in Atlanta and Chicago. She says more with facial expressions than words when she disagrees with Dotty or tries to make her friend feel guilty about offhand but true comments.

For the Apollo performances, Dotty is brilliantly portrayed by Chicago/Broadway/TV actor Kate Buddeke (Superior Donuts). Dotty also seems to get the best lines.

If you take four people and think of what can happen to them over the course of their lives, you will likely come up with some of the scenarios Clancy uses in the play. But instead of having their lives played out against scenery changes, the playwright has them “reading” from their life books.

They do react emotionally to events and each other so reading may seem incidental. However, they each have a stand for their book and a chair to return to when not part of a scene. All the couples’ events and interactions happen in a very quick 90 minutes.

DETAILS: “Middletown,” a GFour Production, is at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, through March 22, 2020. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 935-6100 or visit ApolloChicago/Middletown.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Related: Sandy Duncan returns to Chicago

 

 

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