'Leaving Iowa': A slightly different take on father-son bonding
A review of "Leaving Iowa," staged through June 16, 2012, at Taproot Theatre Company in Seattle.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Leaving Iowa'By Tim Clue and Spike Manton. Through June 16 at Taproot Theatre Company, 204 North 85th St., Seattle; $20-$37 (206-781-9707 or taproottheatre.org).
Nothing quite exacerbates family tensions like ritualized, obligatory fun. Taproot Theatre Company's spirited, regional premiere of Tim Clue and Spike Manton's bittersweet satire "Leaving Iowa" maps out, in excruciating if funny detail, the peculiar nightmare of one such ritual: annual family road trips.
This brisk, inventive comedy doesn't quite bring satisfying depth to its rather stock characters. But it does effectively remind an all-ages audience that even long, maddening hours cooped up in an automobile with a controlling, minutiae-obsessed father (Robert Gallaher); a placid mom (Kim Morris) who occasionally boils over; and a bratty daddy's girl (Helen Harvester) who torments her whiny, easily outraged brother (Ian Lindsay) still count as precious, if imperfect, time together.
Using only a couple of benches indicating a car's interior, director Karen Lund's fluid production toggles between memories of stressful vacations past for the Browning family of Winterset, Iowa, and a present-day, cross-country journey by that little brother's now-grown-up character, Don. In the latter story thread, Don's wish to spread his late father's ashes becomes a lengthy journey of understanding about how love often goes unspoken in family life, leaving a trail of missed opportunities and ghosts.
The show's universal appeal is its pitch-perfect comic takes on predictable travel behavior, from impatience with slow-moving vehicles to Dad's exasperated threats to Pull This Car Over Right Now.
Heightening the fun are the wonderful Ryan Childers and Jenny Cross, playing everything from weirdly defensive Amish artisans to compassionate hog farmers.
It would be nice if Act 2 offered a little more insight into Dad, to earn Gallaher's moving hints of a haunted heart within the cocksure patriarch. But for all its laughs, "Leaving Iowa," as with so many family memories, is finally a tale of shadows and impressions.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com