Who would have anticipated playwright Will Eno, of all people, taking a page (or more) from Thornton Wilder? Still, Middletown, which opens Manbites Dog's 25th season this week, is a work about the comings and goings of everyday people in a small village that could easily be Grover's Corners—just a century later, minus a few basic folkways and a belief system or two.
As Wilder did in Our Town, Eno spends time here with a small group of humans in their beginnings and their ends, but mostly stuck in the middle mentioned in the title. Yet where at least some politicians and engineers are concerned about our bridges, roads and power grids, Eno is preoccupied with a social infrastructure that appears to be rapidly deteriorating as well. What now connects a policeman, a mechanic and a librarian to a newcomer and her neighbor? The answer has changed—if there's actually an answer at all. Eno explores these and other social ties in redefinition with the trademark mordant wit that has made him a "Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation" (The New York Times).
Artistic director Jeff Storer leads a company including Thaddaeus Edwards, Barbara Dickinson, Madeleine Lambert, Chris Burner and Chaunesti Webb. Thursday's 8:15 p.m. preview performance is pay-what-you-can ($5 minimum); tickets for the rest of the run, through Oct. 15, are $12–$17, with discounts for seniors, students and military. —Byron Woods