Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Leaving Iowa

KC's American Heartland Theatre's offerings can be best described as uneven. I have seen some unmitigated stinkeroos (like "Every Christmas Story Ever Told") to whole hearted fantastic. The current production "Leaving Iowa" falls in the latter category.

Leaving Iowa is an old fashioned travel comedy with a simple yet ultimately engaging plot. Craig Benson plays Don, a journalist from Boston who returns to Iowa to visit his mother and sister who stayed in Iowa. During the visit, he decides it is time to find a final resting place for his father’s ashes. His father wanted then to be scattered at his homestead, which unfortunately has been turned into a grocery store. That and a couple other mishaps send Don on a journey of self discovery and of reconciliation.

In flashback scenes, Don recalls the family vacations organized by his nerdish, High School history teacher dad, who loved to stop at the site of the first concrete highway in Iowa and other dubious historic sites. Anyone with kids or who was a kid themselves, will recognize the back seat fighting and teasing between brother and sister, stopping at tourist traps, getting lost and endless hours stuck behind slow moving trucks; dad wanting to pass and mom whining not to.

Jessalyn Kincaid as "sister" steals the show. She is wonderful at evoking the ups and downs of childish behavior. At times I thought she was my own, now grown, daughter, with the familiar "daaaaaaa-yd!" response to everything said. Jim Korinke was a wonderful homespun, Andy Griffith dad without being a caricature. Deb Bluford, as Mom was a perfect foil to Dad, always supportive yet often the one in control.

AHT regular Ken Remmert played the supporting roles including car mechanic, short order cook, grocery store clerk, park ranger and farmer, with his usual relish.

With the wonderful, intimate theatre setting, appreciative audiences and great acting, "Leaving Iowa" is worth the trip.

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