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Leaving Iowa

a Comedy
by Tim Clue and Spike Manton

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : ART Station Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5266

SHOWING : April 20, 2018 - May 06, 2018



A hilarious, family-friendly comedy that is a loving toast to the "greatest generation," and their dedication to the family road trip. Don Browning, a middle-aged writer, returns home to finally take his father’s ashes to his childhood home, as requested. But when Don discovers Grandma’s house is now a grocery store, he begins traveling across Iowa searching for a proper resting place for his father. As he drives those familiar roads, the story shifts back and forth between the present and memories of the annual, torturous vacations of Don’s youth, and ultimately, he finds the unpredictable and perfect final destination.

Director Barry N. West
Don Daniel Carter Brown
Mom Courtney Loner
Sis Madelayne Shammas
Multiple Character Girl Julianne Whitehead
Dad Darrell Wofford
Multiple Character Guy Pat Young
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by playgoer
Monday, May 7, 2018
"Leaving Iowa" tells stories of family car journeys in two major time periods: a family vacation to Hannibal, Missouri at some time in the past and a journey years later of the son finding a spot for his father’s ashes. The play is told in short segments that change from one time period to another. It can be confusing, especially when the son (Daniel Carter Brown) narrates and we hear offstage voices or see unfamiliar characters enter the scene. The main threads of the stories still come through clearly.

The plot consists mostly of a series of encounters that reflect the peripatetic nature of semi-planned road trips. Family dynamics are easily and comically relatable in the earlier time period, with a never-admit-you’re-wrong father, a bickering adolescent son and daughter, and a peacekeeper mother. We see less of the family in the later time period, as the son takes a solo journey with the urn of his father’s ashes. For this later time period, the comedy comes primarily from the interaction of the son with a variety of people he meets along the way, all played by Pat Young and Julianne Whitehead. It’s funny, but not overly memorable.

The technical designers got a workout designing this production. Scott Rousseau’s set is not complex, with Iowa map segments on the back wall and tourist trap photos on wings on either side of the stage, furnishings consisting simply of benches and a steering wheel representing a car and, in the second act, a tiny café table with chair. The set also includes a projection screen, and Mr. Rousseau has created a series of slides that mesh beautifully with the action. Elisabeth Cooper’s lighting design also complements the action, switching back and forth with split-second accuracy between general lighting and pinlights on our narrator, often accompanied by terrific sound effects from sound designer Abra Thurmond. Nancye Hilley’s costumes show amazing variety for Mr. Young and Ms. Whitehead, and excellent props are provided by Cathe Hall Payne and Angie Short.

Barry N. West has directed the show to keep things moving, both in terms of pace and in terms of blocking. Car scenes would seem to be necessarily static, but don’t count on it here. With kids bouncing up and down and everyone leaning in response to turns, there’s plenty of activity throughout.

Acting is good. Darrell Wofford is the quintessential father and Courtney Loner scores mightily as the put-upon mother. Madelayne Shammas and Mr. Brown work together delightfully as children, and mature nicely into their more modern-day scenes. Mr. Young and Ms. Whitehead may not show a dazzling variety of voices and postures as their various characters, but they definitely sell each of their scenes with a deadpan comic sensibility.

"Leaving Iowa" is filled with laughs up until its sentimental ending. A little like a journey with unexpected side trips, it takes its time getting to its final destination and features unanticipated delights along the way. Technical excellence and winning performances make this a delightful production from start to finish. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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