HOT EVENTS MGT MAGAZINE VISITING ARCHIVE MGT PARTNERS MGT TEAM
My Gay Toronto - MGT Stage

Midsummer (a play with songs): a one night stand to remember


by DREW ROWSOME
-Photos by Cylla von Tiedemann

The obligatory obnoxious introduction, affirmation and cell phone warning is interrupted by the welcome arrival of the entertainment entering through a door at the side of the stage. Guitars slung over their shoulders, the duo drag in a quartet of travel cases - pink and blue - and proceed to set up. Like the couple in Midsummer (a play with songs), we have just met cute.

The "play with songs" that follows, chronicles the highs and lows of a drunken one night stand. A chance encounter in a bar between a alcoholic lawyer and a petty thief, spins deliriously into outrageous farce and is, for the most part, extremely funny. Highlights include a comically honest sex scene, the male lead's dialogue with his hyperactive penis, a euphoric night on the town, and a disastrous wedding. But, as if the creators were afraid of offending and pushing the comic limits, there are also inexplicable lows - a badly dated parody of Chariots of Fire and Vangelis, a spoof on rom coms (to let this rom com off the hook?), and some superfluous audience participation/pandering - jokes that a self-respecting dinner theatre or improv troupe would dismiss.

The two leads, Brandon McGibbon and Carly Street (Venus in Fur), are complete pros who accentuate the beautifully bonkers material, and apply enough charm to coast past the clunkers without having to wink. The frenetic pace and the seemingly bottomless travel cases from which emerge costumes, props and characters, are almost as helpful as is what is either abundant natural charm or great comedic skill. Or both.

The characters alternate between narration and dialogue and the effect adds enough distance for the audience to feel complicit and free to laugh at the characters instead of with them. The lack of identification works well at times but also spoils the moments where the emotions are meant to be sincere. But as the telegraphed "deep dark secrets" are hardly surprising, it is no great loss. And there is great comedy to be made out of contradictory storytelling.

McGibbon has a real knack of turning a hangdog moroseness into a sly smile so he manages the transformation from loser into lovable loser with ease. He also projects intense energy through a character struggling to be laconic. Street, who both agree is "out of his league," has the tougher role as her character should become less appealing the more we learn about her. But Street is brash, bodacious and a bundle of energy herself, so she never lets us slip through her fingers. They both also don a multitude of supporting characters and each one is etched sharply and with comic grace.

Midsummer (a play with songs) is definitely a "play with songs" instead of a musical. The guitar playing and folky songs are a plot point rather than an emotional outlet. Or perhaps just inserted to let less triathlon-ready performers catch their breath. There was one moment where Street riffed briefly on a high note that made me ache to see the pair of them have an 11 o'clock number but, though the ending is far more emotionally satisfying than it should be, it is achieved theatrically rather than musically.

There are great lines that snap out and the audience, myself included, laughed long and heartily throughout Midsummer (a play with songs). It is perhaps churlish to ask more than to be entertained grandly for 90 minutes, but it did feel as if there was some "deep dark secret" straining to be revealed. As if the creators decided to insert a bit of shtick whenever the comedy cut too close to the bone. There are fragments of a great comedy inside Midsummer (a play with songs), and perhaps if the creators had known that talents as vibrant and insightful as McGibbons and Street were going to tackle it, they might have taken the risk instead of the easy route. Aimed for the audacious instead of being afraid to offend. 

But maybe every play doesn't have to be profound in the way that every musical needs a variation on an 11 o'clock number. Or every sexual encounter has to mean something beyond physical gratification. But as instant gratification goes, Midsummer (a play with songs) is a very enjoyable one night stand. 

Midsummer (a play with songs) continues until Sun, May 28 at Tarragon Theatre, 30 Bridgman Ave. tarragontheatre.com


4

RELATED ARTICLES / ARCHIVE:
- Review: Peter Pan: Bad Hats Theatre can fly. And multi-task. - Dec '17
- Review: A Christmas Carol: not even a Scrooge could resist - Dec '17
- Review: House Guests - Nov '17
- Review: 5 Guys Chillin' - Nov '17
- Review: Triptyque: choreographing the circus - Nov '17
- Review: The 29th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Nov '17
- Review: Grease: "It's got groove it's got meaning" - Nov '17
- Review: The Goat or, Who is Sylvia? Edward Albee's provocation gets a stellar subversive production - Nov '17
- Review: Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools and the artistic struggle of cultural connection - Oct '17
- Review: Bat Out of Hell: a spectacular guilty pleasure with leather lungs - Oct - '17
- Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: metaphor made into theatrical magic - Oct '17
- Review: Flashing Lights: fable and art - Oct '17
- Review: Undercover - Sep '17
- Review: North by Northwest: a giddy delirious thriller - Sep '17
- Review: Turtleneck: sex, violence, porn and red hot hilarity - Sep - '17
- Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch: escaping the dungeon of gender, Hart House and rock n roll - Sep '17
- Review: The Seat Next to the King: gay interracial sex is more powerful than fear - Sep '17
- Review: Volta: the magic of the circus thrives - Sep '17
- Review: Pippi - Aug - '17
- Review: Permanence - Jul '17
- Review: King Lear - Jul '17
- Review: Cavalia - Jul '17
- Review: Beautiful - Jul - '17
- Review: 8 Morro & Jasp In Stupefaction - Jun '17
- Review: The Lavender Railroad - Jun '17
- Review: Showstopper - Jun - '17
- Review: Youth/Elder Project- Jun '17
- Review: Situational Anarchy- May '17
- Review: It's All Tru!- May - '17
- Review: The Return (il ritorno): Circa ...- May '17
- Review: Midsummer (a play with songs)...- May '17
- Review: Prince Hamlet - Apr '17
- Review: 887: memory becomes extraordinary - Apr '17
- Review: Little Pretty and The Exceptionals - Apr '17
- Review: Jack Charles v The Crown - Apr '17
- Review: A Kiss with a vicious bite - Mar '17
- Review: Souzatzka - Mar '17
- Review: Mrs Henderson Presents - Mar '17
- Review: Blood Weddings - Mar '17
- Review: Book Of Mormon - Mar '17
- Review: Cirkopolis - Mar '17
- Review: The Bodyguard - Feb '17
- Review: Five Faces for Evelyn Frost - Feb '17
- Review: My Night with Reg - Feb '17
- Review: Blue Remembered Hills - Feb '17
- The 38th Rhubarb Festival - Feb '17
- Review: James and the Giant Peach - Feb '17
- Review: Carrie - Jan '17
- Review: Audience - Jan '17
- Review: Sisters Act - Dec '16
- Review: Who Killed Spalding Gray? - Dec '16
- Review: Swan - Nov '16
- Review: Cuisine & Confessions - Nov '16
- Review: The (Post) Mistress - Oct '16
- Review: The Circle: the kids are not alright - Oct '16
- Review: Birdtown and Swanville - Oct '16
- Review: Late Night - Oct '16
- Review: Concord Floral - Oct '16
- Review: Blind Date - Sep '16
- Review: Pearle Harbour - Sep '16
- Review: West Side Story - Aug '16
- Review: Chippendales - Aug '16
- Review: Mr Shi and His Lover - Aug '16
- Review: Tomorrow's Child, NO FUN - Aug '16
- Review: Thank You For Being A Friend - Aug '16
- Review: Luzia - Jul '16
- Review: Peter and the Starcatcher - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park II - Jul '16
- Review: Shakespeare in High Park I - Jul '16
- Review: Bright Lights - Jul '16
- Review: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat - Jun '16
- Review: Forever Plaid - May '16
- Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder - May '16
- Review: The Closet - May '16
- Review: Mousetrap - May '16
- Review: Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom - May '16
- Review: Anne of Green Gables - Apr '16
- Review: Scarberia - Apr '16
- Review: If-Then - Apr '16
- Review: The Wizard of Oz - Apr '16
- Review: The Terrible Parents - Apr '16
- Review: The Judas Kiss - Mar '16
- Review: The Crackwalker - Mar '16
- Review: No Strings (Attached) - Mar '16
- Review: Gertrude and Alice - Mar '16
- Review: Line In Sand - Mar '16
- Review: Boeing Boeing - Feb '16
- Review: Salt-Water Moon - Feb '16
- Review: Contempt - Feb '16
- Review: Anything Goes - Feb '16
- Review: Mustard - Feb '16
- Review: Into The Woods - Jan '16
- Review: Heart Of Steal - Jan '16
- Review: Toruk - Jan '16
- Review: The Gay Heritage Project - Jan '16
- Review: Elizabeth - Darcy - Dec '15
- Review: Peter Pan in Wonderland - Dec '15
- Review: Cinderella - Dec '15
- Review: Mombay Black - Nov '15
- Review: Paradise Lost - Nov '15
- Review: Wormwood - Nov '15
- Review: Banana Boys - Nov '15
- Review: Legally Blonde - Oct '15
- Review: The Baby - Oct '15
- Review: An Enemy of the People - Oct '15
- Review: They Say He Fell - Oct '15
- Review: Buddy Holly - Oct '15
- Review: Seance - Sep '15
- Review: Like A Generation - Sep '15
- Review: 20th November - Sep '15
- Review: Empire - Sep '15
- Review: Big Plans - Sep '15
- Review: The Marquise of O - Aug '15
- Review: An Evening in July - Aug '15
- Review: Love + Hate - Aug '15
- Review: MacArthur Park Suite - Aug '15
- Review: Obeah - Aug '15
- Review: Mary Poppins - Jul '15
- Review: Julius Caesar... - Jul '15
- Review: Gimme Shelter - Jul '15
- Review: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jul '15
- Review: Superhero - Jul '15
- Review: Kinki Boots - Jul '15
- Review: First Time Last Time - Jun '15
- Review: The Love Crimes of Frances Lark - Jun '15
- Review: Ballad of the Burning Star - May '15
- Review: Mr Burns - May '15
- Review: Morro and Jasp - May '15
- Review: American Idiot - May '15
- Review: Liver - May '15
- Review: Sweeney Todd - May '15
- Review: Tom at the Farm - Apr '15
- Review: Ubu and the Truth Commission - Apr '15
- Review: HairSpray - Apr '15
- Nature of the Beast purrs and bites - Mar '15
- Review: The Daisy Theatre - Mar '15
- Review: Dinner with Casey - Mar '15
- Review: Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- Review: Faulty Towers - Mar '15
- Review: Brain Food - Mar '15
- Cake and Dirt - Mar '15
- This is for You, Anna - Mar '15
- Cannibal - Feb '15
- Spring Awakening is on the verge of blossoming - Feb '15
- Jesus Christ Superstar / Heart House - Jan '15
- Waiting Room - Jan '15
- Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Sharron and George’s Christmas Sing-A-Long - Dec '14
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Dec '14
- Review: A Christmas Carol - Dec '14
- Review: Cinderella - Nov '14
- Review: Metropolitan Operas - Nov '14
- Review: Sextet - Nov '14
- Review: Opus - Nov '14
- Review: Take Me Back To Jefferson - Nov '14
- Review: Evil Dead - Nov '14
- Review: The Art of Building a Bunker - Oct '14
- Review: Brotherhood - Oct '14
- Review: Femme Playlist - Oct '14
- The Hip Hopera - Oct '14
- Review: The Importance of Being Earnest- Sep '14
- Review: Freda And Jem- Sep '14
- Review: Hedwig- Sep '14
- Hair - Sep '14
- Summerworks - Aug '14
- Queers Bathroom Stories - Jun '14
- SpeakEasy - Jun '14
- Sharron Matthews and Gavin Crawford... - May '14
- Hackerlove & The Mystery of Edwin Drood - May '14
- Review: Headwig - May '14
- Headwig - Apr '14
- Review: Sound Of Music - Apr '14
- Review: Cock - Apr '14
- Review: 50 Shades - Apr '14
- Review: Me Talking to Myself...- Mar '14
- Review: Elegies - Mar '14
- Review: Marry Me a Little - Mar '14
- Review: Goodnight Desdemona... - Mar '14
- Review: A Beautiful View - Mar '14
- Review: Same Same but Different - Feb '14
- Review: Shrew - Feb '14
- Review: Genesis & Other - Feb '14
- Firebrand: When history burns - Feb '14
- Review: Heartbeat of Home - Feb '14
- Review: Cabaret - Feb '14
- Review: London Road - Jan '14
- Review: Once Upon This Island - Jan '14
- Review: The Way Back to Thursday - Jan '14
- Review: Manon, Sandra... - Jan '14
- Wedding Singer - Jan '14
- Manon, Sandra and the Virgin Mary - Jan '14
- Little Shop of Horrors - Dec '13
- Fear of commitment, but... - Dec '13
- A big splash of holiday cheer - Nov '13
- Needles And Opium - Nov '13
- Gay Heritage Project - Nov '13
- There Is No Lock... - Nov '13
- Sensual thrills in the dark - Nov '13
- No safe word - Nov '13
- Demoniacally delightful song and dance and gore - Nov '13
- Vampires, Judaism and wicked fun with grief - Oct '13
- We all love Lucy - Oct '13
- Freak Flags Conquer - Oct '13
- A Visitation from Aphrodite - Oct '13
- A Comic Tail of Staggering Genius - Sep '13
- We're All Pigs - Sep '13
- Abnormally intimate - Sep '13
- Men Behind Bars - Sep '13
- Lighting up the dark - Aug '13
- Double duty, a foursome and puppets - Aug '13
- Upton Abbey - Aug '13
- Sunny with 100 chance of puppets - Jul '13
- Review: Macbeth at Shakespeare in High Park - Jul '13
- Review: Class Dismissed - Jul '13
- Review: Avenue Q - Jul '13
- Review: Cats - Jun '13
- Review: Happiness returns - May '13
- Review: The Bone House - May '13
- Review: Of a Monstrous Child - May '13
- Stopheart - May '13
- Of a Monstrous Child - Apr '13
- Race - Mar '13
- Dancing With Rage - Mar '13
- Romeo and Juliet - Feb '13
- 35th RHUBARB & Japanese high-tech theatre - Jan '13
- Wizard Of Oz - Dec '12
- Tchaikovsky Spectacular - Nov '12
- La Cage Aux Folles - Oct '12
- Pilitical Mother - Sep '12
- Midsummer Night's Dream - Aug '12
- Fringe Festival - Jul '12
- Festival For Community - Jun '12
- Cavalia Odysseo - May '12
- Amy & Freddy - May '12
- The Game of Love and Chance - Apr '12
- My Granny The GoldFish - Mar '12
- Zeo Hour - Mar '12
- 33rd Rhubarb Festival - Feb '12
- Cabaret - Jan '12
- American Idiot - Jan '12
- The Nutcracker - Dec '11
- Mary Poppins - Nov '11
- Romeo And Juliet - Nov '11
- The Normal Heart - Oct '11
- Another Africa - Sep '11
- Singing Strong & The Maids - Aug '11
- The Glass Menagerie - Jul '11
- Operation Impervious - Jul '11
- Toronto Jazz Festival - Jun '11
- TRIGGER Festival - Jun '11
- Jesus Christ Superstar - Jun '11
- TIGTROPHE - May '11
- AGOKWE - Apr '11
- The Best Man - Mar '11
- SPIN - Mar '11
- Billy Elliot - Jan '11