The magic of the summer solstice turns a chance encounter into a weekend to remember in “Midsummer,” a mischievously funny romantic comedy now playing at the Apollinaire Theatre Company.
Playwright David Greig takes the familiar trope of the strangers who “meet cute” (as in the film, “Love, Actually”) and tweaks it by having his unlikely couple Helena (Courtland Jones) and Bob (Brooks Reeves) not only serve as lovers but also narrators who occasionally deliver their internal monologues out loud, with hilarious results. Although Greig’s energetic plot twists occasionally create too much of a tangle, “Midsummer” leans mostly toward lighthearted silliness, with a few thoughtful comments about life and love from two people confronting the end of their youth at age 35.
This production’s charm emerges from the considerable talents of Jones and Reeves, and the guidance of Danielle Fauteux Jacques’s firm and fast-paced direction. From the moment we meet Helena, a divorce lawyer who is dating a married man, and Bob, a petty crook and would-be singer/songwriter, Jones and Reeves capture our attention and never let go. That’s essential, since “Midsummer” thrives on our ability to sympathize with an eternal bridesmaid with commitment issues and a man whose life started going downhill after high school. What gives their performances even more heft is the duo’s ability to portray every other character in this busy play, including a sister, a nephew, a crime boss named Big Tiny Tom, and a security guard, to name just a few.
The action unfolds in and around Edinburgh, and Nathan K. Lee’s multipurpose set offers just the right suggestion of spaces. That’s not easy, since Helena and Bob’s weekend adventure, packed tightly into this 95-minute play, careens around a wine bar, a bedroom, a bank, a parking lot, the steps of a cathedral, an after-hours club, a chase scene through the city streets and under a bridge, and finally the deck of a ferry.
The locations provide the play with a manic sense of movement as we learn more about Helena and Bob’s vulnerabilities, and why they are perfect for each other, even though they shouldn’t be. Jones and Reeves are fearless and indefatigable in these roles, delivering Gordon McIntyre’s modest songs with gusto even when the lyrics revolve around descriptions of a hangover and include such profound statements as “love will break your heart.”
Apollinaire’s intimate seating (cafe tables and a few rows of seats) creates the feeling that the audience is not only witnessing this wild adventure but are practically participants. At one point, as Bob’s imagination visits “the Department of Philosophical Underpinnings,” audience members are enlisted to quiz Bob on his beliefs, allowing Greig to shift the focus to a “lost weekend” that plays out as a wistful farewell to youthful indiscretions and an embrace of the unexpected romance that has landed in the couple’s laps.
In fact, the combination of Jones’s and Reeves’s performances, with Greig’s sly humor, leaves audiences with a warm “Midsummer” glow.Terry Byrne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.