THE NOTION of a "romantic-comedy musical"—which is what, on paper, it sounds like Third Rail Rep is up to with their production of Midsummer (a play with songs)—might set off a few alarm bells for the cynics in the crowd. But relax: Midsummer is less a musical than a play where the actors occasionally provide their own soundtrack. And while it's a love story, it's a clear-eyed and funny one.
Helena (Cristi Miles) is a 35-year-old lawyer who likes to drink; Bob (Isaac Lamb) is a two-bit criminal who peaked in 1987. When their paths cross on a drunken night at the bar, their one-night stand turns into much more. (Spoiler: There will be bondage.)
Thankfully, this script resists meet-cute romcom tropes at every turn, and writers David Greig and Gordon McIntyre take a refreshingly unsentimental approach to modern love. The morning after Helena and Bob hook up, they sing a duet from the nauseated depths of their hangovers. At one point, a penis talks.
Lamb and Miles both flounder at times with the Scottish accents the setting (apparently) requires, but director Philip Cuomo wisely cast for charisma over top-notch brogue-age; I can't imagine anyone walking away from this show and not being totally charmed by the performances. The show's only major issue is the distractingly ugly set—choosing to spotlight a rumpled bed makes sense, but the looming gray stage and tacky centerpiece tree-branch mural don't serve the story.
Midsummer is simultaneously profane, lewd, existentially bleak, uplifting, and warmhearted. If the show has a moral, it's something like this: "Life can be pretty shitty! So if you find a chance at a bit of happiness, grab it and don't let go!" If more romantic comedies had this attitude, I'd watch more romantic comedies.