BWW Review: WHO AM I THIS TIME? Is A Hoot At Stages Repertory Theatre
Welcome to North Crawford, Connecticut, circa 1962, where "noodle" is considered an edgy put-down, your window installation technician may also be your local theatre director, and lonely wallflowers harbor secret passion within their awkward bosoms.
Sounds folksy? It is- wonderfully so- and as I sat in the audience at Stages Repertory Theatre I found myself noticing flavors of the television show Newhart, Christopher Guest's Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show, and Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Written by Aaron Posner, who adapted stories by Kurt Vonnegut, WHO AM I THIS TIME? (& Other Conundrums of Love) is funny, sweet, and witty in the best, homey way.
Astutely directed by Sally Edmundson, WHO AM I THIS TIME? (& Other Conundrums of Love) asks the question: Is our identity shaped by the people we love and who love us? We are shown different equations of love relationships; young lovers, a marriage ripping at the seams, and tried and true love. Edmundson strikes just the right balance between campy and sentimental, and sets the show on a great foundation with her excellent cast.
As the show sways into gear one has to ask, "is there anything Philip Lehl can't do?" We are lucky to have him in Houston, and his performance as Tom Newton, a married father living a humble life in North Crawford is pitch-perfect. He endears himself to us immediately as he connects with the audience in his chummy narrator style. Lehl understands understated humor and his many comedic lines garner big laughs throughout the show. (Example: After watching a shy, seemingly untalented girl audition for his show, Tom says, "Uh, um... do you sew?") Bree Welch is a welcome presence as Kate Newton, Tom's wife, and she is especially funny in scenes towards the end when she must get her hubby back in line.
Jason Duga is perfectly-cast (and funny) as Harry Nash, a hunky, yet quiet misfit in town who finds unlikely passion onstage.
Emily Neves gives a nuanced performance as Helene, who may be even more awkward than Harry. Neves does admirable triple duty, also playing Tom Newton's daughter Paula, and Catherine, a woman engaged to the wrong man.
Playing the town bohemian, Doris Sawyer, is the hilarious Deborah Hope. Hope has a non-plussed quality that tickles the funny bone. She also plays Gloria Hilton, a glamorous Hollywood actress in a less-than-satisfying-marriage. Josh Morrison is compelling as her disillusioned husband, and is comically dull-witted as an actor in the local production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Blake Jackson plays the perfect prep school brat as George Murra, and also portrays an earnest young man hoping for a second chance at love.
The production values are spot-on, particularly the set. Ryan McGettigan creates a warm, down-home slice of life that serves the actors well and draws in the audience.
WHO AM I THIS TIME? (& Other Conundrums of Love) is quite simply a good time; I laughed a lot and found myself falling for every character. It's a great example of the excellence we expect from a Stages production.
WHO AM I THIS TIME? (& Other Conundrums of Love) plays through February 12 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Pkwy #101. Visit stagestheatre.com for more information.
Photo Credit: Jon Shapley