A View from the Cliff: “Middletown” opens at Brooklyn College

Pauses…Lots of …long…long…pauses. There’s no greater risk in live theater than…Pauses! Director Mary Beth Easley successfully confronts that dangerous strategy in the current production of playwright Will Eno’s “Middletown” at Brooklyn College.

The dozen actors portray almost two dozen individuals. Although they reside in “Middletown,” they convey much more than a middle-of-the-road attitude. Mary Swanson is a sweet, fragile newcomer. Played by Jenna Zafiropoulos, her character reveals an unmistakable sense of aching loneliness. Her eyes dart back and forth in every conversation. Is she seeking an elusive partner or hiding a secret?

John Dodge (Joseph Masi) is very tall and very confused. That is, when compared to his newfound friend Mary.Yes, he can repair her clogged drain but he can’t repair his own life. Does his puzzling behavior even remotely foreshadow his ultimate fate?

Photos courtesy of Brooklyn College
Photos courtesy of Brooklyn College

Well, the remaining roles are nameless. There’s “Mechanic” (Adolfo Alvarado). He’s repeatedly victimized and misunderstood by the townspeople. The “Cop” (Drew Morris) is tough as nails and cruel. Surprisingly, in the second act we see that he is compassionate and genuine. The “Public Speaker” (Lorenzo Cromwell) is both confident and confusing in his long, long soliloquies. Is his role incredibly intelligent, ironic, mocking, or merely a gateway to the next event? The clearest voice of reason, maturity and understanding belongs to “Librarian” (Audra Hans). Her verbal and physical gestures convince us that she is indeed a small town denizen. Yet her reassuring interactions with so many other characters solidify the entire performance. Brava!

More inhabitants of Middletown (Sara Brown, Chrissy Brinkman, Adama Jackson, Mildred Jones-Hamm, Patrick McCormick, Shomari Pinnock) are either deeply empathetic, extraordinarily insensitive or just comical. There’s an impressive Native American dance, a tour group who find Middle America just fascinating, a NASA space mission and several emergency room doctors and nurses who aren’t always appropriate. To break the fourth wall, a flashlight shines directly into the eyes of numerous audience members.

As usual, those behind the scenes deliver professional quality effects. Kudos, to Clarissa Marie Ligon (stage manager), Mark Bruckner (sound design/musical direction), Byungchul Lee (lighting design), Allison Dawe (costume design) and Joe Burkard (set design).

For information on this and future productions, check their website at http://depthome.brooklyn.cuny.edu/theater/ or call the box office at (718) 951-4500.

As always, save me a seat on the aisle.

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