Kevin Kling has not lost his storytelling chops (I was thinking cojones, but I think that’s for another application.) He’s back at Seattle Repertory Theatre and his Gabby Hayes, Simone Perrin, is too. Together they are fantastic. Individually, they’d be fantastic. I love this duo.
This year’s show is “Breakin’ Hearts and Takin’ Names”; last year’s was “How? How? Why? Why? Why?”) It’s generally the same premise: Kevin tells stories and Simone punctuates them with songs (including some of what she calls Slavic yodeling) and her accordion accompaniment. They are both so good at what they do, you don’t want the show to end.
The set is a bar, called Breakin’ Hearts and Taking’ Names. It’s a bar that you’d find in any small to medium town. We visited ones just like this all over the Washington coast to central Oregon. It has a streaked window with a microphone and a bar stool. There is one Naugahyde bench like the ones in the intimate booths. The bar is backed by all kinds of beer advertising kitsch and a row of bottles. In other words, it looks like the local bar where the locals, “come to drink and pretend we are old. Now we just sit around,” according to Kevin. “These bars are the kind of place you don’t want to wear your good shoes too… If assholes had wings, this place would be an airport. It’s peopled by people from the underside of the economic pyramid.”
He talked of his first trip to Seattle, for a meal with fresh seafood, by hopping freight trains. He and his friend had so much fun, “we were laughing so hard, you were walking like John Wayne in ‘The Sands of Iwo Jima.’” They met two guys on their way to a Rainbow Gathering in Idaho. Didn’t we have those down near Lacey?
The guys had plenty of “righteous herb and mellow” attitude but they weren’t altogether mellow when two of the men squared off to fight. However, they had to wait while one put his teeth on a shelf running around the boxcar. (This reminded Kevin of the rugby dressing room he used to frequent. It, too, had a shelf where the players would leave their teeth before going out to play.) He stated that there’s nothing worse than a hippy gone bad.
He did make it to Seattle and had a marvelous seafood dinner, at Ivar’s. Simone punctuated the seafood-freight hopping story with a beautiful rendition of Hank Williams’ “Miss the Mississippi and You” while Kevin played the harmonica accompaniment. It was lovely.
He talked about staying at his grandparents’ farm. His grandmother had an embroidered saying that said in German, go in good, come out good. This embodied her philosophy of cooking. If Grandma could cut it off, she could pickle it.
In college, Kevin became a theater major. “The only thing easier than a theater major was a theater minor.” He met one actor who could have been “the love child of Rock Hudson and Liberace.” He was cast as the sheriff in “Bus Stop” and affected a limp to add dept to his character; however, he always limped with whichever leg was downstage to the audience.
One of his favorite college expeditions was to a bar with B-girls. They would talk to you, or rather, listen to you and interject encouraging syllables to keep you talking. After 20 minutes the timer would go off and she would say, “That’ll be $20.” Kevin opined that it was worth it.
One of his stories took place in one of the small town bars. The guys were shooting the breeze and commenting on the world when one guy looked out the window and saw a beaver in the middle of the street. This was winter and beavers generally hibernate. They couldn’t figure what it was doing but one man insisted on going to get his van, just a few blocks away, in an effort to save the beaver. One guy brought a large cardboard box to contain the beaver. They wrangled the animal into the box and loaded it into the van so it could be transported out to a lake. But a problem arose: How long do you think it takes a beaver to get out of a cardboard box?
As a popular NPR commentator, storyteller and as playwright, Kevin is well versed in the nuances of conversation, pacing, reportage and humor. His production is reminiscent of hearing your uncles and aunts gathered around the post-Thanksgiving dinner dining table, reeling off the lies, near lies and truths of living in a complex and sometimes troubling world. The only thing I missed was my mother yelling at her “limited brain capacity” siblings when the talk turned to politics. Well, maybe I don’t miss that.
“Breakin’ Hearts and Takin’ Names” runs through May 10, 2009. Tickets and information are available at 877-900-9285 or go online at www.seattlerep.org.
(L-R) Simone Perrin (background) and Kevin Kling in Breakin' Hearts & Takin' Names written and performed by Kevin Kling and Simone Perrin, directed by Braden Abraham. Playing in the Leo K. Theatre April 9 to May 10, 2009. Photo Copyright Chris Bennion 2009. For press inquires please contact Katie Jackman at 206-443-2210 x1001 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Other photographs also Copyright Chris Bennion 2009.