A friendly take on fear

Stage Presence
By MEGAN GRUMBLING  |  June 6, 2012

tji_lifeduringwartime_main
WHO'S INSECURE NOW? It's Life During Wartime.

The theologian John Calvin (Peter Brown) trudges about the set of Keith Reddin's Life During Wartime, spreading his cheery take on the human condition: "All human works are nothing but filth and defilement." Each of us is, inherently, a sinner. While Calvin urges us to contemplate our own inner muck, slick salesman Heinrich (Brian Chamberlain) wants the young new guy, Tommy (Matt Delamater), to stress its corollary, the muck of everyone else: The horrid people out there make us fundamentally unsafe and, therefore, urgently in need of the security systems he's selling door-to-door. But just how secure do such measures really make his clients?

Heinrich has trained his protégé well in the fine rhetoric of fear-mongering. But during Tommy's first pitch, to lively single mom Gale (Christine Penney, with honey and fire), he finds that his best assets are his 28-year-old's candor and his beautiful mouth. Before long, the two fall giddily in love, and Tommy starts getting to know her son Howard (Andrew Sawyer, with a great monologue about teen tormenters). Meanwhile, Tommy drinks with Heinrich and their wise-cracking colleague Sally (sassy Elizabeth Lardie), learning more than he would like to know about the doings of the company.

Reddin's play, directed by Keith Powell Beyland of the Dramatic Repertory Company, might be the first ever to bring together its particular colloquy of allusions, from the Talking Heads to ee cummings. Its characters quote from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" between slurps of lo mein, and they intelligently discuss Max Weber's take on Protestantism with Calvin himself. At times this feels a little cute, but the script is mostly wry and erudite, though it's surprising when it veers into more maudlin writing later in the second act.

As the main vessel and proponent of the show's cynicism, Chamberlain is sterling — slick, smarmy, and ruthless. And as Tommy, Delamater once again dazzles with his depth and sensitivity. Though he's a bit of a stretch as a 28-year-old, the guileless animation of his eyes and eager, gaping mouth make his appeal the essence of youth. He's endearing in his ardor, and anguished but enlightened when things go wrong. "This ain't no party," sings David Byrne in the title song, but neither, after all, is this the end.

LIFE DURING WARTIME | produced by Dramatic Repertory Company | at Portland Stage's Studio Theater, in Portland | through June 10 | dramaticrep.org

  Topics: Theater , Peter Brown, Keith Reddin, Elizabeth Lardie,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MEGAN GRUMBLING
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   TAKING CENTER STAGE  |  September 03, 2014
    “I’ve always loved hidden treasures,” says Michael Levine, founding artistic director of Acorn Productions, as he climbs the stairs to the third-floor ballroom of Mechanics Hall, a gem of a historic space concealed in plain sight right on Congress Street.
  •   BARN FULL OF WONDER  |  August 31, 2014
    Although summer is winding down, there’s still time for this summery, feel-good theatrical throwback to simpler times.
  •   BEREAVE IT OR NOT  |  August 22, 2014
    A dramedy about death, lust, and love by Portland actress and playwright Megan E. Tripaldi.
  •   WELCOME OBSCENITY  |  August 22, 2014
    When dancers or denizens at these close tables rustle, giggle, or whisper something titillating, it sounds like the prurience is coming from someone in our own party.
  •   WHEREFORE ART THOU?  |  August 14, 2014
    Monmouth's R&J and the quest for passion

 See all articles by: MEGAN GRUMBLING