BY Brandon Voss
November 16 2010 6:15 PM ET
Miss Congeniality’s Heather Burns, The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Georgia Engel, As the World Turns heartthrob Michael Park, and Linus Roache, who played a gay man of God in Priest, are among the many world-weary inhabitants of Will Eno’s Middletown, which runs through December 5 at the Vineyard Theatre. Like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town through a fun house mirror darkly, this unapologetically grandiloquent meditation on life and death, at once sage and syrupy, links neighbors and strangers by their philosophical self-awareness and poetic articulation of the unbearable lightness of being. This master class in existential insight may seem a bit heavy-handed — a sapling is planted, an astronaut regards Earth from space, someone dies in a hospital as someone gives birth down the hall — but it never feels ham-fisted, thanks to Eno’s clever wordplay and twisted sense of humor.
Taking off with a chilling high-altitude crisis that recalls Karen Black’s terror in Airport 1975 and Lee Grant’s fate in Airport ’77, Beau Willimon’s Spirit Control runs its course December 5 at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Stage I. A superb Jeremy Sisto stars as Adam, an air-traffic controller who must talk an unseen passenger named Maxine through an emergency landing when the pilot of her plane has a heart attack. The rest of the play swerves from mundane to surreal as Adam’s marriage nosedives when he becomes obsessed with an enigmatic woman — also named Maxine — who may not really exist. Brian Hutchinson, who played gay opposite Valerie Harper in Looped, costars here as Adam’s wife-swiping coworker, and the very appealing Aaron Michael Davies, who omits Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild! from his Playbill bio, appears as Adam’s unpleasant teenage son.
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