Monday, September 10, 2012

And So It Goes - Artist Repertory Theater, Portland, Oregon

Romantic Notions

And So It Goes... is playing at ART through October 7th. Evenings at 7:30, and 2pm matinees on Sundays, too.  It is based on the writing of Kurt Vonegut and adapted and directed by Aaron Posner.

The title of the play is derived from Vonnegut’s way, in many of his stories, of dealing with extraneous information, kind of like we use, etc.  Mr. Vonnegut died recently and his fresh words on our current human condition will be solely missed.  He spoke for an Age and his insights were remarkable.
 
But his words (as do Bradbury’s) are hard to express in a visual setting.  Only PBS’s with their From Time To Timbuktu (with one of his favorite actors, Kevin McCarthy) and Who Am I This Time? (with Christopher Walken and Susan Sarandon) were worth the effort.  And his play, Happy Birthday, Wanda June (again with McCarthy) fell short of the mark.  But now Posner attempts this transition, too.

This play is not the usual Vonnegut fare, playing with Time and creating Sci-Fi like atmospheres.  It deals with Love, “pure and complicated.”  The first story is true, describing the story of how he married his wife, based on his beautiful, seven-page short story, A Long Walk To Forever.  The young soldier, Newt (Andy Lee-Hillstrom), arriving on the wedding day of his childhood sweetheart, Catherine (Kayla Lian) to another man.
 
His determination to convince her to marry him is unflappable.  And his proposition to her is simple, just take a walk, “putting one foot in front of the other…and so it goes.”  Ah, were Romance really that simple.  Perhaps the best love story ever written.  It well may be that Life is really not all that complex, perhaps we just make it that way.

The second story is one of the best theatre stories ever written, based on Who Am I This Time?  An unassuming little man, Harry (Alex Hurt, son of the terrific actor, William Hurt), who works as a clerk in a store in a small town, becomes transformed when he appears onstage into, almost literally, becoming another person.
 
He meets his match in a mousy little lady, Helene (Kayla Lian), who also becomes consumed by her role.  And the current play they are to perform is Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, with the two as Stanley and Stella.  Their passion grows as long as there are characters for them to become.  A little sad, perhaps, but it works for them.  And is not that the point of Love?

The third story is the weakest of the three.  It also comes from Vonnegut’s book of short stories (as do the other two), Welcome To The Monkey House.  It is views of two, inter-related stories of marriages on the rocks.
 
One has to do with the relationship of Gloria (Sarah Lucht), a movie star, to George (Leif Norby), a failing writer.  She is looking for success with successful people.  He is looking for a way to patch up his relationship with his son, John (Andy Lee-Hillstrom), from a former marriage. 

The other marriage has to do with Tom (Tim True), an absorbed salesman, but neglectful husband, and his strained relationship with his wife, Katy (Valerie Stevens).  During the flow of the story, the two husbands connect with each other, revealing some of their innermost feelings and how to survive Love.  As they say, “Adults are just kids with more body hair and taller.”

The stage is bare with only incidental props and set pieces and lighting to reveal locations.  And, as noted, the small cast plays many roles, and are well-suited for this task:  A black box or Our Town sort of atmosphere.  The direction by Posner works well in this arena, keeping things flowing throughout the story.  As I said, only the last story seems weak, as compared to the other two.

All the performers do well in their assigned roles.  But outstanding is Tim True as the Narrator and characters within the stories.  His casual delivery and relaxed manner make one feel quite at home in the theatre, as if it were just a conversation between friends.  (Much like the character of the Stage Manager in Wilder’s Our Town).

Alex Hurt as Harry (and Stanley) is extraordinary in this complex role.  He is totally believable as both characters, as if he were two different people.  And Leif Norby is organically rooted as Verne, a nerdy, wanna-be actor in the Streetcar… tale and as George, the conflicted husband in the final story.  The characters are polar opposites of each other but Nordy pulls it off beautifully.  And Kayla Lian does well in her duel roles as Catherine and Helene.

This production is well worth seeing. For further information go to their website at artistrep.org and/or call for tickets at 503-241-1278.  Tell them Dennis sent you.