The Middle Ages lampoons WASP culture

The Summer Theatre here continues its 2008 season with AR Gurney’s The Middle Ages, opening July 31 at the Belwood Hall.

The WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) is the play­wright’s target in this play.

As with other Gurney plays (such as The Cocktail Hour, The Dining Room, and the high­ly acclaimed Love Letters) the social lives and loves of Am­erican’s waning upper-mid­dle class are hilariously torn apart.

The play is set in the most WASP-ish of institutions: the trophy room of a men’s club, in a nameless, faceless city some­where in New England. Told through a series of flashbacks over 30 years from the 1940s to the 1970s, the room, like the club itself, rigourously fights against the pace of change.

Amidst the backdrop of a world changing more rapidly than at any other point in his­tory these “good old boys” keep on sipping their drinks, marginalizing their wives, and remaining convinced that good fortune will smile on them for­ever, as if it were their divine birthright to be so affluent.

Into this world is born Barney Rusher, a prodigal son, if ever their were one. For over 30 years he tries to win the heart of Eleanor Goldberg, the girl he meets at a party when they are both in their teens.  He quickly tells her to keep secret her Jewish birth (her mother made them change their last name to Gilbert) for he knows, “They don’t allow Jews in here.”

That is only the first of many times Barney tries to save Eleanor from a world that he does not believe will love her as he will. 

Fancying him­self a modern-day Robin Hood, Barney partakes in many decid­ed­ly un-WASP-ish activities; thievery, nudism, navy deser­tion, the civil rights movement, anti-war protests, bi-sexuality, and finally winds up becoming very wealthy as a producer of pornographic films.

In doing so he succeeds in being blackballed from the club by his father, and Eleanor mar­ries Billy, Barney’s younger, much more respectable brother, and it seems that all is lost.

But for Barney, as for us all, time marches irrevocably on­wards, and as the play opens we are introduced to an older, quieter Barney, who has just made what may be the wisest, or dumbest, choice of his life, and now, finally, only Eleanor will be able to tell him how it will all work out.

The show opens July 31 and runs Thursday, Friday and Sat­ur­day at 8pm, with a 2pm Sat­urday matinee. Tickets are $15 each, with a group rate of $12 for groups of ten or more. Tick­ets may be reserved by calling the Grinder box office at 519-780-7593, by visiting grinder­, or at the door.