Theater review by Adam Feldman. Clurman Theatre (Off Broadway). By David Greig. Music by Gordon McIntyre. Dir. Greig. With Cora Bissett, Matthew Pidgeon. 1hr 40mins. No intermission.
Imagine a version of Once in which the pair of lonely souls who meet in a Celtic metropolis—and who resist falling in love while singing about it—are not quite so young and pretty, but display prominent signs of wear and tear. Midsummer [a play with songs], David Greig’s eclectic two-hander (studded with wistful tunes by Gordon McIntyre), does fit that description, but the show is not just some attempt at Once Again. Helena (Bissett) is a tightly wound lawyer with choppy blond hair and a drinking problem; Bob (Pidgeon) is a morose, unexceptional-looking petty criminal. They meet uncute: borderline-sloppy drunk in an Edinburgh bar, not looking to find someone so much as to lose themselves for a night—which turns, unexpectedly, into a weekend of abandon and discovery.
A lot of Midsummer, however, does depend on being cutely glum. Bissett and Pidgeon have played their roles off and on since the show’s 2008 debut in Scotland, and they marshal considerable charm and detail to keep their balance amid the lurching tones and styles of Greig’s gallows rom-com. The show tackles questions of life and death with invention and poignant humor—and there’s a wonderfully awkward sex scene (performed fully dressed)—but I’m not sure any spark could ignite the soggier patches of third-person self-narration, familiar crime drama and pinched cheekiness. Midsummer has guts, but could stand to lose a little paunch.—Adam Feldman
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