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Theater of Champions

Artists Rep Explores the Lighter Side of Vonnegut in And So It Goes...

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Professional disclosure: my date and I attended the Artists Repertory Theatre world premiere production of And So It Goes... just two days before our first wedding anniversary. We arrived after a candelit dinner, already coked up with the weapons-grade neurochemicals that induce dreamy cooing in newlyweds and projectile barfing in any single people unlucky enough to be caught in the crossfire.

So we were easy marks for this soft-edged but sharply observed production. Director/adaptor Aaron Posner (known locally for his adaptations of Chaim Potok at Portland Center Stage) has assembled a bouquet of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s early love stories—three sweet-smelling blooms from a writer more often remembered for his thorny black humor. If you're looking for an unembellished stage translation of Vonnegut's science fiction or war stories, move along; there's no surrealist irony on display, and the material has been noticeably altered and expanded to make the most of the cast and the running time. Cynics and purists need not apply.

If, on the other hand, you have a hot date to win over, a need to escape the bitter taste of election season, a fondness for Vonnegut in any mode, a teenaged relative who's starting out in the romance business, an anniversary to celebrate (cough), or just want to see a crack ensemble cast have what appears to be a raging blast in an intimate setting—well, there's a pair of seats waiting for you. You won't regret it.

Tim True mutes his prodigious physicality to suit the part of Tom Newton, a New England window frame salesman and community theater director; the transformation will be a trip for Portland theatergoers accustomed to seeing True fill a room with a languid gesture. His hands stay modestly tucked in his pockets for most of the show, and he breaks up his emcee duties by vamping amiably with audience members. When True's penchant for physical comedy is finally unleashed, it's a riot, and Leif Norby (in one of his two ensemble roles) ably matches his stride. The whole cast is a delight, with everybody getting their fair share of laughs and sighs. A seven-person ensemble that can sprint from gentle intimacy to full-out farce and back without leaving anybody behind is a rare thing.

Those who avoid the show for its unfashionable earnestness will miss out on a fine piece of theater.

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