Around this time of year, we are clouded in pink ribbons, red bows, and hearts filled with love. Thankfully, there’s relief from the commercial cheese to be found at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Instead of your traditional sappy love story, Kurt Vonnegut’s Who Am I This Time (& other conundrums of love) takes the audience through several amorous tales that are full of romance, comedy, and laugh-out-loud scenes.
Creatively, the show blends three different productions: Long Walk to Forever, Who Am I This Time?, and Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son. And it does so without delivering a choppy and distracting storyline. Director Janet Allen says people attend because of their knowledge of Vonnegut. “It’s more of a hometown celebration,” she says. “Often when the audience gets here they are surprised because if you’ve read any of his other work, it’s really edgy and dark. But this isn’t. Hopefully that surprise is good.”
Using minimal props, lessons through song, and a stage size perfect for this occasion, the characters create an informal environment that gives the impression of improvisational theater. Long Walk to Forever tells the love-triangle story of two young adults who grew up near one another but are currently at different points in their lives. Catharine (Liz Kimball) is soon to marry the man of her dreams—or so she thinks—and Newt (Zach Kenney), her long-time friend, wants nothing but to call Catherine his own. “It’s all about not being afraid to feel big feelings and to embrace them even though they may feel very romantic and different,” Kimball says.
One of the most memorable and entertaining moments of the night was Matthew Brumlow’s split-personality character, Harry Nash in Who Am I This Time? Brumlow transforms from a timid and reserved character to an aggressive and confident one within seconds. Once the plaid shirt and glasses are off, the new character comes to life before your eyes. Helene, also played by Kimball, falls for Harry for all the wrong reasons. She doesn’t love him for his shyness, but for the role he has in a play. “Before the show I do a little dedication to all of the people who have trouble communicating such as Helene [does],” Kimball says. “For the ones waiting for the guy to show up at their door, just to give them hope.”
Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son deals with platonic love—that for family and friends—and tones down the humor. The audience travels through the sincere and emotional importance of a father-son relationship after the breakup of a traditional family. Leaving this tale for last, the IRT leave the audience with a combination of emotions: a hopeful heart, butterflies of puppy love, and an appreciation of community.
Who Am I This Time (& other conundrums of love). Showtimes now through Feb. 23. Indiana Repertory Theatre, 140 W. Washington St., 317-635-5252, irtlive.com.
See actor Robert Neal speak about the show here: