Life During Wartime at IU’s intimate T-300 is self styled as zany comedy. In the production directed by Dennis Black it plays like a series of Saturday Night Live sketches with a vacillating winds in its sails, with a film noir style narration for dramatic ballast and occasional visits from the Swiss theologian John Calvin for a sort of moral keel.
Arian Moayed plays the sympathetic fledgling home security system salesman Tommy. Ira Amyx is his hard boiled mentor, Heinrich. The sympathetic office mate is played by Molly Thomas.In addition Thomas plays the lite Twinkie eating wife of a heavily armed suburban militant and a sympathetic lonely lady. Tommy falls in lust with his first on-the-look-out-for-the next-traveling-salesman, divorcee Gale played with a nice passionate cool by Carol Enoch. Jose Antonio Garcia showed versatile reserve as he played Gale’s son, a much put upon waiter, a character named Richie and a much put upon delivery boy. The cast was rounded out by Peter Gerharz playing John Calvin, the heavily armed suburban militant, a police lieutenant and a daffy old man and savior, who just wants his lawn mowed.
The IU production of Life During Wartime began quite cooly and only gradually engaged my sympathies. Acting in all parts was strong though I did wonder if the brutal Heinrich’s wasn’t a bit over the top. Sometimes his character seemed to belong in another play. The mini lectures by John Calvin were at first amusing detours, but as I got more involved in the characters, increasingly irritating and less and less comprehensible. Frankly, I think that I turned them off. When Calvin and Gale’s ghost finally slugged it out over whether the Protestant Ethic led inevitably to the worst aspects of turn of the century capitalism, I found myself momentarily amused, but intellectually begging for dramatic mercy. But despite the fact that it frequently puzzled me, the play did somehow emotionally pan out. I did come to feel real empathy for the lost Tommy. I did sympathize with the lives and the life of the characters.