Play Review: The Blair Academy Players’ Production of Middletown

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the Blair Academy Players performed their fantastic production of Middletown by Will Eno in the Wean Studio Theater. This production, both touching and clever, examined small-town America and its eccentric inhabitants.

The play follows the friendship of newcomer Mary Swanson, played by Emmila Hastings ’17, and long-time Middletown resident John Dodge, played by Charlie Stafford ’17. Other scenes help support the town as a vision of average, small-town life. However, the audience soon realizes that the residents of Middletown are anything but average, with each character having a distinct and interesting perspective on the world.

The cast was excellent, and conveyed their characters very well. As a member of the audience, I personally became so engrossed in the play and the characters that I nearly forgot that they were not actually the characters they portrayed, but the people with whom I attend school. In particular, Emmila Hastings gave an extremely impressive performance as Mary Swanson, consistently speaking in a foreign accent for the entire play. Charlie Stafford was also amazing, perfectly capturing the loneliness of his character, John Dodge. Ernesto Lippert ’18, who played the mechanic, gave a truly emotional performance, and was able to transition between light and dark emotions seamlessly. The ensemble as a whole was tremendously talented.

The set design for the play was minimal, yet provided just enough to enhance the storyline, and included various props brought on and off the stage by the tech crew. The two houses, which remained on stage throughout the play, helped to advance both the plot and character development. Mary and John could be seen alone in their homes after their scenes had ended during the scenes that followed, which added another layer to the performance.

After the show, one student commented, “The play blew me away! The actors played their parts so well. I really believed what they were saying!” A parent in the audience commented, “The actors delivered their performances with intense emotion. I was impressed with their talent!”

Mr. Evans, the director of the production, said, “It was rewarding to feel the audience’s reaction to the show. They laughed a bit, but in the end really felt for the characters, and left thinking about their own lives, perhaps, which is what theater should do. I know I’ll be thinking about these characters for a while. I was really proud of the cast’s investment into the play– they really believed in the show.”

The very large audience, made up of students, parents, and teachers, enjoyed the play, laughing out loud on numerous occasions and meeting the conclusion of the play with thunderous applause. The Blair Academy Players’ outstanding production of Middletown was a huge success, and was a perfect way to begin an academic year of amazing theatrical performances.

(Copyright 2016 Abby Morris)