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Western Oregon University students rehearse scenes from “Middletown,” opening tonight.

MONMOUTH — “Middletown,” by Will Eno, opens today (May 29) at Western Oregon University’s Rice Auditorium.

The play, described as moving and infectiously funny, takes place in a small American town.

A new arrival strikes up a friendship with a long time resident.

Guest artist Zeina Salame is directing.

Salame is a co-founder of The 5 & Dime, a theatre company. She is the recipient of the University of Oregon’s “Graduate Student Award,” and is a PhD candidate at the University of Oregon.

“(Audience members) can expect scenarios that feel familiar, but are approached with a twist of the unexpected,” Salame said. “There will be a great many different types of characters in different states of satisfaction with their lives. It is warm, sweet, sad, poignant, mysterious, and sometimes even a little magical.”

She submitted a few play options to WOU.

“WOU has a very thoughtful play selection process in which students and the faculty get to share their opinions on what they would like to produce,” Salame said.

Salame said she is interested in relationship-center material about family, friendships, and community, “stories that explore our impacts on one another’s lives. Middletown does that while also offering fulfilling creative opportunities for faculty, staff, and student collaborators.”

Reviews of “Middletown” compare it to Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” with a postmodern edge.

Salame agrees with that comparison, though she considers “Our Town” to be postmodern as well.

“They both use metatheatre to make observations about nostalgia, small-town life, and the mundane, layering different aesthetic and thematic approaches to do so,” she said. “But it is also explores the futility, loneliness, and hopeless so many folks experience.”

For Salame, the theme of “Middletown” has shifted throughout the process of putting on the production.

“My hunch is that it will continue to do so even through the close of the show,” she said. “For now I will offer perspective. Sometimes it takes great distance from aspects of our lives that we might take for granted in order to fully appreciate them.”

Catch the show

What: Middletown, presented by Western Oregon University theater department.

When: May 29, 30, 31 and June 1 at 7:30 p.m.; May 30 at 2 p.m.

Where: Rice Auditorium.

Admission: General, $14; Students, $8, Seniors, $10.

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