By Diana SaengerIt’s the spring of 1962 and Tom Newton (James Leaming) is happy as a lark at the Mask & Wig theatrical club in North Crawford, Connecticut, where he presents community plays. One of the actors who performs there is quite unusual — as theater-goers to “Who Am I This Time?” now playing at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach — will see.
The comedy is based on three short stories about love by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., deftly linked by playwright Aaron Posner, and directed by Andrew Barnicle. A terrific cast brings these sweet, soulful tales to life with lots of laughter throughout the production.
Harry Nash (Jason Maddy) is known about town as an extremely shy and nondescript stock boy. But put him in a play and he becomes that character on and off stage until the next time he’s cast and he takes on the new character.
When Tom tests Harry for the lusty Marlon Brando role of Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Harry immediately begins bellowing “Stella.” Maddy is so good, he keeps the audience in stitches through his metamorphoses; he’s simply hilarious.
To play the role of Stella, Tom picks on a newcomer to town, the phone company’s new customer service representative, Helene Shaw (Christina Flynn). Helene decides this will be a good way for her to meet other people and she accepts the role. It turns out she’s better than Tom imagined.
There’s only one problem. Helene
reallyfalls for Harry, thinking he’s like Stanley. However, when Harry leaves the set immediately after each rehearsal, she’s informed it’s because he is nothing like Stanley, and Helene’s idea of love flies out the window.
Tom will not let that happen as he’s on a passionate trip to see romance blossom everywhere. He talks to the audience as if it was filled with townspeople, and even asks a few some questions about their love life.
Better than try to heal Helene’s bruised ego, Tom lets his wife, Kate (Cynthia Marty), coax the young actress to continue acting in the troupe, and maybe it will work out for her and Harry.
Tom tells his own love story at the beginning of the play as he recounts how he and Kate got together. The scene is delightfully re-enacted by Ben Cole as Newt, and Flynn as the girl who almost got away. Both actors nail the nuances of young love.
Verne Miller (Gregory North) is also one of the actors at the Mask & Wig Club, but the parts he yearns for are often given to someone else. Still, Tom manages to appease the guy and keep him in the fold.
The third tale is about true love that takes a detour, and the audience shares the heartache as the actors work to get it back on track.
Still, no matter how many laughs fill the room, Tom keeps his eye on the prize through his musings about love, a subject anyone will find more than entertaining in this spotlight.
If you go■
What: ‘Who am I this time?’
When:Matinees and evenings, through Feb. 2
Where:North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach
Box Office:(858) 481-1055