On the way to the anti war demonstrations around the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago a young couple stop at a motel in Tulsa. The woman gives birth. The father leaves. The baby girl is named Tulsa Lovechild. It’s the "Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild" that Greg Owens’ play at IU’s T-300 unwinds for us. The show is a t heart a romantic comedy, but it’s far from being a simple one.
Our narrator for the show is a Russian emigre motel manager named Bob played with great amiability by Arian Moayed. Bob plays host to most of the cast. There are Tulsa’s parents, Woody and Sylvia played by Erik Anderson and Sara Pauley. A pair of Siamese twins played with a nice mix of approach and avoidance by Patricia Drozda and Lauren Cregor are the beneficiaries of Bob’s generosity. Miss Nebraska, Emily Hoover, and her besmitten combine driving boyfriend Clyde, Peter Gerharz, appear at Bob’s from time to time. In "The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild" we also get glimpses of Viet Nam, a view of a community of the wildly faithful and even some insight into what the hereafter may hold. The play covers a lot of ground.
Tulsa herself is played very attractively by Kelly Ann Ford. Ford manages to make Tulsa’s variety of moods, her charm, her insecurity and her grit all part of a coherent package. Whether Tulsa was applying for a job as a phone receptionist, arguing with the spirit of her dead mother, dueling with her outrageously right-wing father-in-law played by Blake Bowen or trying to sort out her affection for the actor played by Geoff Wilson, Ford made it all interesting to watch.
This review sounds like a catalog of the cast and "The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild: lends itself to it. Because of the short pointed takes, even the least prominent actor is in a starring role at least for a scene or two. I don’t think that I’ve mentioned Tim Hanna who plays–with aplomb–a defrocked Senator, a tough sergeant and a wild evangelist. By the way, he plays the evangelist alive and dead. Did I skip Lauren Sharpe who plays a bland blond at the beginning of the show and a dominating brunette at the end? Have I left out the weaseling TV director played by Stuart Ritter as he dominates the blond and kow tows to the brunette?
Owens’ play frequently moves as fast and in as many directions as a movie. It’s made up of short scenes interspersed with dozens of thematically telling snippets from Bob Dylan’s catalog. "…Tulsa…" is nicely produced, neatly directed by Bruce Burgun. It is well acted by a personable cast. I did sometimes wish for longer segments and fewer breaks, but only occasionally.
Earlier I said that "The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild" is a romantic comedy, a love story. But Greg Owens has also written a love story about America, about the late sixties, about figuring out how to love it and not leave it.