Don't forget the map when Leaving Iowa
 

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posted Friday, May 25, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 21

Don't forget the map when Leaving Iowa
By Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Leaving Iowa
Taproot Theatre
Through June 16


Have you ever been forced into the back seat of the family car to go on a long road trip to some godforsaken place you have zero interest in? But of course the parents think it's going to be so educational and interesting! If you grew up in the Midwest, it seems like every family has at least one of those trips in their history, including the un-air-conditioned station wagon.

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, back to one seminal family vacation driving from their small Iowa town to Hannibal, Missouri.

Of course, there are other stops along the way, like the ghost cave that promises witches and scariness, 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 you hear horror stories about, that 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.

The long suffering parents are played by Robert Gallaher and Kim Morris. Gallaher is the gentle giant, the schoolteacher who can't quite take the summer off, even if the only students are his 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 current-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, ashes included, on another family trip, this time to spread his ashes somewhere appropriate. That particular aspect is the weakest of the play, without a clear justification, but you can just ignore that, fairly easily. It's the reason for the road trip memories.

The road trip memories include 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 an excess of wigs and 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 set design and also sounds, and Nanette Acosta has great fun with the costumes, including all the Childers/Cross moments. The play by Tim Clue and Spike Manton, both stand up comics at times, is a lot of fun, full of moments that should resonate for just about any family. Director Karen Lund makes good use of the humor, and the solid cast executes as well as the play can expect.

It's not a terribly deep subject in its exploration of family, but 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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