By Jim Rutter
For THE INQUIRER
If you want to appreciate a work of art, your attitude matters. Personally, I dislike romantic-comedies, unless tempered with a darker subplot, an element of fantasy, or when carried off with a bit of panache.
Going into Midsummer: A Play with Songs, I didn't expect to enjoy this 2009 Scottish rom-com by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre. But I didn't know that their 90-minute play, now in a sly, fantastical production at Inis Nua, would transform the typical entry in this genre.
Midsummer opens on rom-com staple number one: an unlikely pair of lovers, 35-year old childless divorce lawyer Helena (an utterly delightful Liz Filios) and same-aged, divorced petty crook Bob (the always fascinating Charlie DelMarcelle). Neither likes their love lives (another staple); both harbor troubling secrets. So when the married man she's seeing ditches her, Helena decides to drink and degrade herself further at a bar with the biggest lowlife she can find.
This straightforward start segues into an unexpectedly funny, and funnily raunchy sex scene (presided over by an Elmo doll no less). When Bob finds himself holding a bag full of cash the next day, it accelerates into an epic adventure that sprawls across Edinburgh and features Goth musicians, talking parking meters, 100-pound bottles of wine and a very bizarre confessional in a Japanese rope bondage parlor. A poster bed functions as park bench, taxi seat and wine bar; the pair wheel it about Meghan Jones' cozy, familiar bedroom set where Shon Causer's lighting creates a rich, textured aura.
But the true joy of this piece stems from Filios and DelMarcelle's captivating performances. Each performs McIntyre's rock songs on cello, accordion, ukulele, guitar or drumming on a wood crate. Each crafts a unique, compelling portrait of two frustrated souls, lost at midlife yet still searching.
Under Kate Galvin's exquisitely timed direction, their he-said, she-said reenactments of scenes ebb and flow, once in a punchline, the next in a soft moment of discovery. Greig's plot cycles backward and forward over the summer solstice weekend. Fate intervenes, magic happens, stars cross.
Sure, even the most wretched cynic could retch over a play about two hapless yet hopeful romantic hangers on, trying to begin again with little time left to begin. But for everyone else, this play will charm you if you let it.
Midsummer: A Play with Songs. Presented at the Off-Broad Street Theater, 1636 Sansom St. Tickets: $25 to $30. Information: 215-454-9776 or inisnuatheatre.org