One of my favorite bar signs sits over the register in a hole-in-the-wall dive where the patrons, by mutual agreement, still smoke. The sign says "If you drink to forget, we ask that you pay in advance." Last time I dropped in, a guy who'd just been laid off decided to tie one on with the sort of order you hear once in a lifetime: "Gimme half of what killed Elvis."That's the kind of place Kevin Kling's Breakin' Hearts & Takin' Names takes you. Thanks to L.B. Morse's set design, which creates the coziest bar setting you've ever imagined, Kling and his musical companion, Simone Perrin, lead a stream-of-consciousness rumination on the depths of love and how recovery from its bruises can be measured in time and tequila shots.Kling, known to Seattleites from his work at the Rep as well as his NPR contributions, has sharpened his focus from previous plays, and that clarity of vision gives Breakin' Hearts a sturdier foundation, or at least a mooring in logic from which each of his stories can set sail and return. A raconteur nonpareil, Kling never disappoints, and he's a master of the slipstream, too. Often you're still savoring the oddball details of one vignette when he's hip-deep into another. No matter, because a good part of the fun is simply trying to catch exactly where he makes each careful turn.Director Braden Abraham (responsible recently for both Betrayal and last summer's sleeper hit, The K of D) once again displays a deft hand in letting the actors spin their yarns with minimal distraction. There is some blocking, some fun with musical instruments (Kling plays merrily away on several, despite some physical limitations), and a great deal of magic done with Morse's lighting design.The regal and winsome Perrin serves as Kling's alter ego and comic foil, often reflecting his monologues back as poignant song. Heretofore I have maintained that accordions belong in one of two places: zydeco or storage. Perrin has convinced me that they should be licensed, and that she ought to be the only one in the city permitted to carry one. She moves seamlessly from Edith Piaf to blues and country, and provides a kind of musical meringue to Kling's sweet-tart tales.As a correspondent for Prairie Home Companion, Kling also understands that there's a fine line between wholesome and antiseptic, so while this show does have some genuine grit, it's also the kind of piece you could actually see with your parents without squirming in your seat. Since its running time is a mere 90 minutes, it's a one-stop pub crawl which neither overstays its welcome nor leaves you hungover the morning firstname.lastname@example.org
Breakin' Hearts and Takin' Names Seattle Repertory Theater, Seattle Center, 443-2222, www.seattlerep.org. $29–$55. 7:30 p.m. Tues.–Sun., 2 p.m. Sat.–Sun. Ends May 10.