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IRT's 'Who Am I This Time' is a confectionery delight

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"Who Am I This Time?"

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With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is no better sweet to indulge in than Kurt Vonnegut’s “Who Am I This Time? (& other conundrums of love)” by Aaron Posner at the Indiana Repertory Theatre; the show opened Friday and continues at the downtown Indianapolis theater until Feb. 23.

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Indianapolis native Vonnegut wrote an assortment of short stories throughout the 1950s and ‘60s which were published as a collection in 1968 titled “Welcome to the Monkey House.” Posner’s beguiling adaption draws from three of those stories, all of which explore love. They include “Long Walk to Forever,” “Who Am I This Time” and “Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son.”

“Who Am I This Time?,” an entertaining, comedic treat, was splendidly directed by IRT artistic director Janet Allen. She doesn’t direct often but when she does it is always worth the wait. Making the production even more worthwhile was its cast of accomplished performers consisting of Ryan Artzberger, Matthew Brumlow, Zach Kenney, Liz Kimball, Constance Macy, Robert Neal and Carmen Roman—all of whom play multiple roles.

The stories, which reflect Hoosier Vonnegut’s affinity for American small town life, are introduced by folksy Tom (Neal), who joins other residents of North Crawford, Ind. to play the characters in each vignette. The plays within the play take place at the Mask and Wig Club stage. Interspersed throughout the piece are songs, including “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” performed by the entire cast, with some playing guitars and also including a drum.

“Long Walk to Forever” featured Kenney as Newt, a smitten Army private gone AWOL, who shows up on the doorstep of Catherine (Kimball) on her wedding day to someone else and reveals that he is in love with her. He suggest she go for a walk with him after which he states his case. The passionate chemistry created by Kenny and Kimball was such that the improbable outcome of this situation was never in doubt.

“Go Back To Your Precious Wife and Son” involves a movie scriptwriter (Artzberger) who gives up his family for a Hollywood film star (Roman) but is jolted back the reality once he realizes the devastating cost of fortune and fame. Roman was spot on as the Norma Desmond-like diva Gloria Hilton. Artzberger and Neal were hysterical in a very funny drunk scene in which their characters bond while polishing off a fifth of whiskey and Brumlow is a scene stealer as plumber Roy Crocker Jr.

If you have seen the 1951 film version of Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” starring Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando—chances are, like this writer, your favorite story in the trio presented will be “Who Am I This Time.” Speaking of valentines—theater lover Vonnegut couldn’t have expressed more affection for the art form than in this story about Harry Nash, a timid and acutely shy hardware store clerk (Brumlow) who is unable to make human connections unless he is on stage transforming into characters that are nothing like him.

In the story, the North Crawford Mask and Wig Club players mount a production of “Streetcar.” It is almost a far gone conclusion that Harry, who always plays lead roles, will be cast as Stanley Kolwalski, and he indeed is. Always short on ingénues, the group casts mousy Helene Shaw (Kimball), a telephone company employee who is new to town, as Stella. The course of the story follows the auditions, rehearsals, performances (igeniously condensed here) during the production’s three day run and the aftermath in which cupid arrow strikes two quirky people.

Those who have ever endured inferior community theater, in particular, will appreciate the seamless, multi-layered performances of Brumlow as Nash and Stanley Kolwaski, Liz Kimball as Paula Newton and Stella, Constance Macy as Kate and Blanche DuBois and Ryan Artzberger as John Murra playing the remainder of the “Streetcar” roles (his character's preparation prior to an audition was a riot). These professional actors were terrific at playing amateur actors with varying degrees of talent ranging from semi-pro to next to none. It’s a challenge playing someone lacking talent if you have loads of it yourself. On that score, these IRT actors excel. And then some.

For tickets and information about “Who Am I This Time” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, call (317) 635-5252 or visit www.irtlive.com.

Do you wish to become a regular reader of this column? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the “Subscribe” button above. Also, "Like" Tom Alvarez on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there is no better sweet to indulge in than Kurt Vonnegut’s “Who Am I This Time? (& other conundrums of love)” by Aaron Posner at the Indiana Repertory Theatre; the show opened Friday and continues at the downtown Indianapolis theater until Feb. 23. Indianapolis native Vonnegut wrote an assortment of short stories throughout the 1950s and ‘60s which were published as a collection in 1968 titled “Welcome to the Monkey House.” Posner’s beguiling adaption draws from three of those stories, all of which explore love. They include “Long Walk to Forever,” “Who Am I This Time” and “Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son.”

A delightful comedic treat, “Who Am I This Time?” was splendidly directed by IRT artistic director Janet Allen. She doesn’t direct often but when she does it is always worth the wait.

Making the production even more worthwhile was its cast of uber-talented performers consisting of Ryan Artzberger, Matthew Brumlow, Zach Kenney, Liz Kimball, Constance Macy, Robert Neal and Carmen Roman—all of whom play multiple roles.

The stories, which reflect Hoosier Vonnegut’s affinity for American small town life, are introduced by folksy Tom (Neal), who joins other inhabitants of North Crawford, Ind. to play the characters in each vignette. The plays within the play take place at Mask and Wig community theater stage. Interspersed throughout the piece are songs, including “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” performed by the entire cast, with some playing guitars and also including a drum.

“Long Walk to Forever” featured Kenney as Zach, a determined Army private gone AWOL, who shows up at the home of Catherine (Kimball) on her wedding day to someone else to profess his love to her. The romantic chemistry created by Kenny and Kimball was such that the improbable outcome of this situation was never in doubt.

“Go Back To Your Precious Wife and Son” involves a movie scriptwriter (Artzberger) who gives up his family for a Hollywood film star (Roman) but is jolted back into the reality once he realizes the devastating cost of fortune and fame. Roman was spot on as the Norma Desmond-like diva Gloria Hilton, as were Artzberger and Neal during a very funny drunk scene in which their characters bond while polishing off a fifth of whiskey.

If you have seen the 1951 film version of Tennessee William’s “A Streetcar Named Desire,” starring Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando—chances are, like this writer, your favorite story in the trio presented will be “Who Am I This Time.” Speaking of valentines—theater lover Vonnegut couldn’t have expressed more affection for the art form than in this story about Harry Nash, a timid and acutely shy hardware store clerk (Brumlow) who is unable to make human connections unless he is on stage transforming into characters that are nothing like him.

In the story, the North Crawford Mask and Wig Club players mount a production of “Streetcar.” It is almost a far gone conclusion that Harry, who always plays lead roles, will be cast as Stanley Kolwalski, and he indeed is. Always short on ingénues, the group casts Helene Shaw (Kimball), a telephone company employee who is new to town, as Stella. The course of the story follows the auditions, rehearsals, performances (hilariously capsulized here) during the production’s three day run and the aftermath in which two quirky people find love.

Those who have ever endured inferior community theater, in particular, will appreciate the well-executed, multi-layered performances of Brumlow as Nash and Kolwaski, Liz Kimball as Paula Newton and Stella, Constance Macy as Kate and Blanche DuBois and Ryan Artzberger as John Murra playing the remainder of the “Streetcar” roles. Their performances captured the range of amateur actors with varying degrees of talent who are members of avocational theater casts comprised mostly of those possessing little or next to none. It’s difficult playing someone lacking talent if you have loads of it yourself. On that score, these IRT actors excel. And then some.

For tickets and information about “Who Am I This Time” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, call (317) 635-5252 or visit www.irtlive.com.

Do you wish to become a regular reader of this column? Receive e-mail alerts when new articles are available. Just click on the “Subscribe” button above. Also, "Like" Tom Alvarez on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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