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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 1, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 22
Leaving Iowa: don't forget the map
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Leaving Iowa: don't forget the map

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

LEAVING IOWA
TAPROOT THEATRE
Through June 16


As a child, were you ever forced into the back seat of the family car to go on a long road trip to some godforsaken place you had zero interest in? Of course the parents think it's going to be so educational! Taproot's newest production, Leaving Iowa, is about just that kind of family vacation. It veers back and forth from current 'grown-up' time, when son Don Browning (Ian Lindsay) comes home to Iowa from Boston for his nephew's christening, to one long-ago family vacation, driving from their small Iowa town to Hannibal, Missouri.

Of course, there are stops along the way, like the ghost cave that promises witches and other scary things, and turns out to be as big a bust as any other hyped-up detour. Then there are the usual brother-sister fights, hysterically animated by the versatile and impish Helen Harvester as Sis. Sis is devilish. She's the younger sister who lies and gets away with everything: stealing, hitting, getting firsts over and over by claiming her brother 'went first last time,' and is also a champion tantrum-thrower. Somehow, she grows up into a reasonable person anyway.

Robert Gallaher and Kim Morris play the long-suffering parents. Gallaher is the gentle giant, the schoolteacher who can't quite take the summer off, even if the only 'students' around are his own children. Morris is the mom who always puts her husband first and tries to be the disciplinarian. Her lines are so stereotypical ('If you don't shut up &') that you just have to laugh at them.

The present-day story has Don feeling guilty for missing a lot of family events, including his father's funeral. His guilt causes him to take Dad's urn, remains included, on another family trip, to spread his ashes somewhere appropriate. That particular aspect, lacking a clear justification, is the weakest element of the play, but you can ignore it fairly easily. What matters is the trip itself.

The family meets at least a half-dozen sets of characters along the way, who are steal-the-show funny when played by Ryan Childers and Jenny Cross. With a plethora of wigs, accents, and funny lines, they pop into the story as hotel attendants, restaurant employees, Grandma and Grandpa, and a sweet couple who used to live at the Center of the United States (in Kansas).

As usual, Mark Lund provides versatile scenic design as well as sound, and Nanette Acosta has great fun with the costumes, including all the Childers/Cross moments. The play, by Tim Clue and Spike Manton, both sometime stand-up comics, is a lot of fun, full of moments that should resonate with just about any family. Director Karen Lund makes good use of the humor, and the solid cast executes well.

It's not a terribly deep exploration of family, but is aptly suitable for the Taproot audience and good for a lot of laughs. For more information, go to www.taproottheatre.org or call (206) 781-9707.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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