Since the term “rom-com” fills my tiny critic’s heart with dread, let’s start with the good news. Midsummer (A play with songs) is funny, clever, and – hallelujah! – a little bit edgy, too. It should delight sentimentalists and hipsters in equal measure. Add the fine work of director Kate Galvin, and superb performances by Liz Filios and Charlie DelMarcelle, and you have a winner.
David Grieg and Gordon McIntyre’s play, set in Edinburgh, does follow a rom-com template. (In a nutshell: Helena, a successful divorce lawyer who has been stood up on date, instead pursues Bob, a likeable loser from the other side of the tracks.)
But Midsummer also has a grittiness that recalls the darker comic tone of Scorsese’s After Hours or Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild – coupling here sets off a wildly eventful weekend, tinged with unpredictable, even scary surprises. (How many rom-coms do you know with a bondage scene?) The show also incorporates folk-rock songs for both actors – it’s a device that has some charm, and here it gives Filios a chance to show off her warm, lovely soprano.
Galvin and her cast manage to energize the piece while still keeping things feeling relaxed and real. Filios looks a lot like the young Ellen Barkin, and has a similar gift for finding vulnerability underneath a prickly surface. DelMarcelle, one of Philly’s finest actors, does some of the best work I’ve seen from him – the transluscent way he shows everything he’s thinking is a thing of beauty. (Kudos also to the excellent on-stage musicians.)
Midsummer doesn’t entirely avoid clichés, but mostly it’s fizzy and inventive – an evening of small pleasures that, taken together, add up to something special.
Through April 27, Inis Nua at Off Broad Street Theater, 1636 Sansom St., 215-454-9776, inisnuatheatre.org