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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Theater Takes Us to Will Eno’s ‘Middletown’

The 2014-15 season will mark the 50th anniversary for the Department of Theater & Dance at UC Santa Barbara.

Will Eno
Playwright Will Eno's play Middletown is now playing on the UCSB campus.

The first production of this celebratory year will be of Will Eno’s Middletown: A Play, directed by Tom Whitaker with sets by new faculty scenic designer Greg Mitchell, a cast of 12 UCSB acting students, undergraduate and graduate.

Eno describes Middletown as "trying to look at the accumulation and effect of the tiny moments that make up our lives, and how we are constantly vulnerable to these tiny moments, which may in fact change the angle of our entire life, or not."

Now that it has been written, Eno is not at all reticent in talking about his play, and what made him write it.

"We spend a lot of time thinking about the end and the beginning," he says, "in kind of self-aggrandizing ways. We talk about the miracle of birth and the mystery of death. But, by definition, all of our lives take place in the middle of those two sort of unknowable events, in this great and often unexamined middle.

"I wanted to write a play that put some thoughts and feelings in the air about the miracle and the mystery and that alluded to deep and unknown forces. But then really just have people going to the store and fixing the sink and going through the normal things of looking for love and getting up in the morning. Because that's how we live."

Director Whitaker has his own ideas about the play, of course, and he doesn't mind sharing them with us, either.

“It's a post-Beckett Our Town," he says, "for our time. It is both funny, and deeply moving. The language is very particular and wonderful, moment-to-moment. Particular like Beckett is particular. And we see all the tiny and not so tiny moments of the characters lives against the mysterious larger tapestry of life.”

Middletown plays at 8 p.m. Nov. 14-15 and Nov. 18-22, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 15-16 and Nov. 22 in the UCSB Performing Arts Theater. Tickets are $17 for general admission and $13 for seniors, children, UCSB students, faculty, staff and alumni. They are available at the door, or from the ticket office at 805.893.7221.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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