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Ten Thousand Things' Forget Me Not When Far Away Brings the War Front Home

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"You can't go home again." It's a hoary cliché, but one that fuels Kira Obolensky's whip-smart new play, Forget Me Not When Far Away, which is receiving its premiere from Ten Thousand Things.

In this case, the "you" is John Ploughman, a soldier recently returned to Farmingtown after a decade of fighting at the front. He's come home as the war ends to regain the life he left behind, but the town is considerably changed.

"You can't go home again." It's a hoary cliché, but one that fuels Kira Obolensky's whip-smart new play, Forget Me Not When Far Away, which is receiving its premiere from Ten Thousand Things.

In this case, the "you" is John Ploughman, a soldier recently returned to Farmingtown after a decade of fighting at the front. He's come home as the war ends to regain the life he left behind, but the town is considerably changed.

Obolensky and a talented cast of six actors deliver a rare beast: a show that is very funny, very sad, and very deep. The playwright's mix of mythic situations and thoroughly real characters blends perfectly with Ten Thousand Things' intimate style.

John is haunted by what he saw in the faraway war, and confused by what he finds in his hometown. Without any adult men around, the women have slipped into all of the principal roles around Farmingtown. It's not some kind of feminist paradise, but it works.

John isn't all that interested in gender politics, and his eyes are only for one woman: old flame Flora. As it turns out, she's been waiting for him as well. It's hard to discern why. They never actually dated, and John treated her terribly before he left, sowing his oats wide and far.

How wide? It turns out he has a son, the strange and slightly damaged Atlas. John also has a reputation. Flora wasn't the only flame he treated poorly. To add to the troubles, John is officially dead. His name is on the long list of soldiers lost during the war.

How will John deal with this son he didn't know, and will it get in the way of his desire to reconnect with Flora? That two-pronged question drives Ron Menzel's performance. Decked out in a dusty uniform and carrying a limp from his days in the war, Menzel makes a slow, absolutely engaging transformation.

The humor comes out through the bevy of women — often eccentric — who populate Farmingtown. Five actors take on more than two dozen roles, employing a variety of character tics, costume pieces, and wigs to keep them clear and distinct. Sha Cage, for example, quickly transforms from always-horny Sheila to the thoroughly odd Fortune Teller.

Obolensky also provides a deep vein of absurdity. She has used the rather dour (and very sexist) Don Juan Returns from the War as a foundation, but packs the show with humor that intensifies the serious side of the story.

IF YOU GO:

Forget Me Not When Far Away $30 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 4 p.m. Sundays May 8 through 17 at Minnesota Opera Center (620 N. First St., Minneapolis); May 22 through 31 at Open Book (1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis). Call for tickets at 800-383-3006.