Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Seattle

Seattle Rep Offers Sublime Theatre with
Breakin' Hearts and Takin' Names

Also see David's reviews of Sunday in the Park With George and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Looking for heartfelt warmth and sheer hilarity, wrapped up in a tight ninety-minute package? Then mosey, no run, over to Seattle Repertory Theatre's cozy Leo K venue to see NPR regular Kevin Kling's utterly winning and wondrously winsome Breakin' Hearts and Takin' Names.

Though circumstances prevented my seeing Kling's previous show at the Rep, How? How? Why? Why? Why?, last season, I heard from many that I'd missed a real winner. That show was centered around Kling's recounting of his journey back from the devastating motorcycle accident he endured in 2001 (he lost the use of his right arm, and was born with a congenital defect of his left arm). Vocalist/accordionist Simone Perrin accompanied him then and now, and together the pair offer up an enchanted, if quirky, evening or matinee of a show.

Braden Abraham's unobtrusive directorial touch and perfect pacing suit the show well. He lets the performers do the heavy lifting. Not that there is anything heavy or heavy-handed about Breakin ' Hearts and Takin' Names . Kling, like fellow Minnesotan and NPR commentator Garrison Keillor, is a good old-fashioned storyteller. He delights in the audience response to his nostalgic ramblings, and we delight in his unique personality and the universality of so many aspects of his tales. When Kling told a story about how his often incommunicative father preferred all important discussions between them to take place in the family car, this took me back to a long-buried memory of how my own father liked to do exactly the same thing. Perhaps a generational trait of men born in the early decades of the 20th century? His wild and wooly opening tale of traveling with a buddy from Minnesota to Seattle in boxcars to get Seattle seafood at Ivar's was perhaps my favorite tale of the evening, but even saying that, I feel I am shortchanging the others. The whole show is that good.

Perrin has a wonderfully one-of-a-kind voice, here a trace of Teresa Brewer, there a tad Cyndi Lauper, but mostly uniquely her own style, and with the ability to go from sultry to silly in a twinkle of an eye, or sometimes mix the two qualities, as in a Kurt Weill-ish lament that left me in hysterics. She also yodels adroitly and plays a mean accordion. How many really good male or female accordionists do you know of? Kling rightfully gives her equal partner status, and the pair shine as he weaves another great tale of his attempt to pick up a "B" girl in a bar (if you have to ask "what's a B girl?" see the show for the answer).

The endearing pair of performers are absolutely at home on L.B. Morse's astonishingly detailed corner bar set, decorated with perfect mismatched memorabilia and furniture fragments (where did they find two bar stools just like the ones my folks had, I gasped).

Writing this review I know I have to go back for a second serving of Breakin' Hearts and Takin' Names to feed my soul. Come to think of it, Carrie Fisher's extended run of Wishful Drinking is next door at the Rep's Bagley Wright mainstage. Maybe a weekend marathon of matinee and evening shows is in order.

Breakin' Hearts and Takin' Names plays at The Seattle Repertory Theatre's Leo K. Theatre through May 10th. For tickets or information call the box office at 206-443-2222 or toll free at 877-900-9285 or visit them online at

Photo: Chris Bennion

- David Edward Hughes

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