Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Where Are They Now?: Ex-TV Stars Make for a Fun If Fleeting Trip to 'Middletown' -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Middletown: The Ride of Your Life!
a play by Dan Clancy
starring Sandy Duncan, Donny Most, Adrian Zmed & Kate Buddeke
Presented by GFour Productions
at Apollo Theatre, Chicago
Thru March 22

likable \ˈlī-kə-bəl \
having qualities that bring about a favorable regard: PLEASANT, AGREEABLE

Certainly there are worse things to be called, and while I wouldn't dub Middletown: The Ride of Your Life brilliant or stupendous or deep or sensational or especially incisive, I found the four character play--performed without scenery or props and with the actors reading from scripts, often while seated--to indeed be likable.

The draw in Chicago for presumably most attendees is the cast, consisting of three fairly well-known names from television and a local stage actress of some note.

Sandy Duncan, a frequent presence on our sole household TV when I was a kid in the '70s, but also boasting dozens of theater credits and three Tony nominations, looks great and is quite amiable as Peg, long married to Tom, played by Adrian Zmed, a Chicago-bred one-time heartthrob best-known for co-starring on TV's TJ Hooker in the '80s.

As Middletown chronicles, Peg and Tom are close, weekly-dinner friends with Don (Donny Most, forever known as Ralph Malph on Happy Days) and the sassy Dottie (Kate Buddeke, a longtime Chicago theater performer--I saw her in Airline Highway and Superior Donuts at Steppenwolf--who also has Broadway, film and TV credits).

And across 90 minutes and at least 30-some years, we learn about their lives.

How the spouses met, how Peg and Dottie met, when the husbands got introduced, about their jobs, their families, their ups and their downs--some particularly wrenching--and to a degree, how the world changed around them.

Not too much happens that one mightn't expect, but writer Clancy does a nice job making the characters and scenarios seem both unique and universal.

Though I have no aversion to nostalgia and have seen numerous TV celebs onstage over the years--Linda Evans, Joan Collins, Jason Alexander, Kelsey Grammer, John Mahoney, David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth, George Wendt, Teri Hatcher, Christina Applegate, Marilu Henner, Alan Thicke, Michael McKean, Carol Kane, Melissa Gilbert, Richard Thomas, Richard Kind, Holland Taylor, etc., etc.--I can assure you that I have never wistfully wished to see Duncan, Most and Zmed act together. (I did once see Duncan years ago in The King and I.)

But each was fun and--yes--likable, and Buddeke more than held her own.

Her character, Dottie, a grade school teacher with a sharp tongue who enjoys a cocktail or three, is probably the best written of the quartet.

And Dottie's life with Most's Don just feels a bit "cooler" than the Duncan/Zmed pairing, not that they don't too come off well.

I see and enjoy all kinds of theater, much like I take in a good cross-section of movies, TV and books. Everything has it's place and art needn't be groundbreaking or profound to be worthwhile.

So while, despite its subtitle, Middletown wasn't quite the "ride of my life," and not the type of play I would want to regularly ingest, it was undeniably fun to see some older yet still familiar faces in the comfortable confines of Chicago's Apollo Theatre.

And--perhaps all the more so amid global pandemics and crashing stock markets--it was perfectly nice just to see something likable. 

1 comment:

Hemingway1955 said...

Sandy Duncan is ageless!