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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Stage Review

‘Middletown’ a rewarding destination

CAMBRIDGE — “I just want to be a regular living person.” That’s John Dodge speaking in Will Eno’s 2010 drama “Middletown.” The play is full of regular-seeming people, like a Cop, a Librarian, a Mechanic, a Landscaper, and a Tour Guide. And apart from a birth and a death, nothing very spectacular happens. But over the course of 2½ hours, Middletonians speculate as to what ought to happen between birth and death, as well as what might come before and after. In the Actors’ Shakespeare Project production now up at the Cambridge YMCA, the town is a tough but rewarding destination.

Opening with an introduction from the Public Speaker, and expressing, in the Mechanic’s words, the thought “People don’t stop to think how lucky they are,” “Middletown” is a kind of gloss on Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” At the end of the first act, an Intermission Audience takes the stage to comment on what we’ve just seen; one of its members even shows up as a character in the second act. A more detached perspective is provided by the town’s one notable native son, astronaut Greg, who waxes poetic from his space capsule, to Houston’s dismay. But most Middletonians might as well be stranded in the cosmos, for all the direction they’re able to give their lives. “People come, people go,” the Cop explains. “Crying, by the way, in both directions.”

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