Articles about Middletown

August 3 – August 9 2015

Hello everyone!

Another week, another full slate at Third Rail, another new episode of “Chopped”, and another blog post keeping you updated and informed!

First, we continue to sell memberships and increase the number of people who can say “I am a Third Rail member!”

Then, after a few giant weeks for us, we have a rare moment when we can catch half a breath. But only half. This week, we have the first design meeting for our October/November show, which will follow Or,. We are excited and eager to share with you The Realistic Joneses by Will Eno. You may remember Eno’s brilliant writing from Middletown this past Fall. Eno has been an Oppenheimer Award winner, a Drama Desk Award winner, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He was quite open and communicative and present with Third Rail during the Middletown process, so are particularly delighted to be tackling another fantastic play of his.

The Realistic Joneses is Eno’s first Broadway play. It had a successful ran in 2014 starring Michael C.Hall, Toni Collette, Marisa Tomei and Tracy Letts (so just imagine how extraordinary this will be when some talented actors get their hands on it!). It is an unconventional, unexpected, original and outrageous look at the people who live next door, the truths we think we know, and the secrets we never imagined we all might share. Here are three quotes about Eno’s script that we hope will begin to get you looking forward to this show as much as we are.

Plays as funny and moving, as wonderful and weird as ‘The Realistic Joneses,’ by Will Eno, do not appear often on Broadway. Or ever, really.The New York Times

For all the sadness woven into its fabric, ‘The Realistic Joneses’ brought me a pleasurable rush virtually unmatched by anything I’ve seen this season. The New York Times

Eno’s dialogue is a marvel… there’s much to savor… Life in Enoland isn’t what you’d call realistic – it’s more real than that. Time Out New York

But! First, we have the hilarious and beautiful and liberating Or,! This week will be the final Set and Costume Design meeting before first read! First read will happen next week and there is nothing more invigorating than diving into a new show… but that is out of my prevue. Next week!

– Darius Pierce, Third Rail Company Member

Clearer from a Distance: Themes of Belonging in Middletown, Frankenstein and the Life of a Mentee

by Joellen Sweeney

I’ve been thinking a lot about belonging recently. It’s something that’s been on my mind since May when I graduated college, but it wasn’t until I watched Third Rail’s production of Will Eno’s play Middletown that I was able to finally put a definition to it the feeling: Belonging is the sense of being woven into the fabric of your environment—threads stitching person to person and heart to heart. The Middletowners spend the majority of the play desperately seeking these connections as they round-peg-square-hole-it through their daily lives. Eno makes a convincing case that the sense of belonging is most clearly understood when it is absent from our lives. Early in the play, the Astronaut views his hometown from space and discovers the profound in the mediocre. In Act II, the Mechanic finds he feels most connected as he revisits a dance from his childhood. In each case, it is the distance that allows these characters to examine the connections that once made them part of a whole.

This outside-looking-in perspective on belonging was evident again at last weekend’s National Theatre Live performance of Frankenstein. The creature cries out, “I am the one who stands outside the door. I see inside. But I daren’t go in.” Like the Middletowners the Creature strives to make meaningful connections with others; in nearly every case he is violently rebuffed. He eventually opts out of society, choosing instead to commission Frankenstein to build him a sense of belonging, corpse-by-corpse, organ-by-organ. The play never gives us a chance to find out if it works, but the idea is certainly intriguing. Can belonging be crafted? Can you will yourself to feel it? Can others create it for you?

I’m finding many opportunities to examine these questions as I transition haltingly into my adult life. As an approval-hungry overachiever, I found it easy to belong in college; affirmations and accolades abounded. My graduating class of theatre majors numbered only five, so we got to know each other well over four years of collaborating. I was a known quantity with them, and that’s how I liked it. Then came May with all its pomp and circumstance, and suddenly I was unknown again in a world that seemed to have little interest in a friendly meet-and-greet. I never realized how much I belonged at college until I left.

I returned home to Portland, only to find that things had shifted in my absence. Like the Astronaut, I viewed home from a new perspective and found that I could no longer relax into the worn-in routines of childhood. Like the Creature, I spent the summer peering in doorways, seeking belonging in new places with new people.

These days I’m a mentee at Third Rail and I’m testing the waters of belonging again just a toe at a time. My fellow mentees are a lively bunch and we’re already cooking up mischief together. The Core Company members each have their own mystique; from the warm and wise to the gruff and grumbling to the sharp and sassy—each one personifying the cool cousin you want to be like when you grow up. It’s inviting to imagine belonging to this zany, noisy, loving family of artists, and with each passing day of rehearsal observation, scene study and office hours, it feels more and more possible. We’ll see what the future holds. For now, we remain—the Creature, the Middletowners and I—huddled on the doorstep, not quite daring to go in.

7 Reasons to See Middletown This Weekend

  1. The local critics loves the show:
    Real People People Inhabit “Middletown” at Third Rail Rep
    On the mysteries of the universe.
    Meandering through ‘Middletown’ and life
  2. It’s funny as hell and you will laugh your ass off.
  3. It’s better than getting a catalog.

    Yeah. You get the mail, it’s a clothes catalog. Maybe you leaf through it, maybe think, ‘Hey, I could buy those pants.’ Then you think, ‘But then it’d just be me in a different pair of pants.’ Then you go out and walk around, and that’s your day, time for bed.Will Eno, Middletown

  4. It’s sad and tender and you will be moved.
  5. It stars core company members of Third Rail Rep, so you know it’s gotta be good.
  6. It’s all about humanity and being human, so you can relate. (You are human, right?)
  7. It’s the last weekend of the run, and you’ll be so sad if you miss this show.

Don’t Miss Middletown by Will Eno


Performances Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 2 PM, this weekend and next!

Go see it and experience it for yourself. You will smile, laugh, and talk back to the play… read morePatrick Brassell

A curious meditation on the shadow dance between the profound and the mundane… read moreMarty Hughley, Arts Watch

This whacky, thoughtful ode to the mystery of existence…is a show not to miss… read moreHolly Johnson, The Oregonian

Middletown Vaults to the Top of Third Rail’s Ninth Season

Will Eno's "delicate, moving and wry" play begins on September 26 at the Winningstad

We kick off our ninth season with a play Third Rail has been dying to produce since it was the hit of Portland Center Stage’s 2009 JAW Festival, Middletown by Will Eno. The residents of Middletown lead lives that are probably not too different from ours. They wake up, go to work, say hello to their neighbors, fix the plumbing, seek advice on parenting, and try to live lives that are as rewarding as possible. It’s all fairly ordinary. And yet…ordinary doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this quirky, word-frenzied, refraction of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Middletown is a quizzical fable about life in all its sweetness and pain, joy and wonder, beginnings and endings.

Featured will be company members Michael O’Connell, Maureen Porter, Damon Kupper, Karen Trumbo, and Bruce Burkhartsmeier, joined by guest artists Amy Newman, Darius Pierce, Diane Kondrat, and Ben Newman. Direction will be by Marcella Crowson.

Performances begin September 24 at the Winningstad Theatre.