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Friday, September 22, 2023

Life + Arts

UH alum directs thought-provoking play

UH alum Kyle Sturdivant both acted in and directed the production of "Middletown".

UH alum Kyle Sturdivant both acted in and directed the production of “Middletown.” | Courtesy of The Catastrophic Theatre and Anthony Rathbun.

Will Eno’s “Middletown” has made its way to Houston, debuting at the downtown Catastrophic Theatre on May 23. It would seem to be a simple slice-of-life story, but the play and its set of characters are quite complex.

“Middletown is a town where everyone knows each other, but doesn’t know each other,” said first-time director, cast member and UH alumnus Kyle Sturdivant.

The first act is riddled with comedy and wit, and in the midst of it all, hard-hitting questions begin to rise about the truth behind birth and death. By the second act, the lightheartedness has dissipated and these questions become much more real.

The end of the play is dramatic to say the least. Eno leaves the conclusion in the hands of the viewer, with many t’s left uncrossed and i’s un-dotted.

The cast of the 120-minute play sat down with the audience after Thursday evening’s show for a question-and-answer segment. The atmosphere was very relaxed and inviting. The 12-person cast sat side-by-side on stage, some even drinking beer as they opened up the floor for questions and comments.

Sturdivant earned his bachelor’s degree in theater at UH and has been acting for 19 years. He was originally assigned two roles, one on stage and one behind the scenes. His role as assistant director quickly turned to director after the former director, Jason Nodler, stepped down due to medical issues.

When asked if it was difficult to bring the characters to life, Sturdivant replied, “The script does all of the work.”

Sturdivant said he felt nervous about his directing debut. He had to overcome a few obstacles, admitting that his own insecurities as actor made it difficult to direct the other cast members. He also had to create a grand set design in a tight space. By opening night, Sturdivant said he felt that everything came together nicely.

After reading it through, the cast members were charmed by the play.

“Anyone can relate to the loneliness of the characters,” said Lyndsay Sweeney, who played a librarian.

“Middletown” is showing Thursdays through Saturdays at the Catastrophic Theatre until June 14. Ticket information can be found on the theatre’s website.

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