This light-hearted and hilarious comedy ironically tells the story of a writer, Don, who travels from Boston to his home, Winterset, Iowa, to spread the ashes of his dead father at his father’s childhood home.
The plot, interspersed with flashbacks, humorously pokes fun at the tension between the Baby Boomer generation – Don and his Sis – and the “greatest generation” of their parents.
“The real spark behind this work comes from being children of parents from the now dubbed “greatest generation.” Leaving Iowa is a toast to their idealism and character, and perhaps a little roast of their undying dedication to the classic family road trip. Leaving Iowa is a postcard to anyone who has ever found themselves driving alone on a road, revisiting fond memories of their youth.”
– From Director’s Note of Tim Clue at www.leavingiowa.com.
Chicago writers Spike Manton and Tim Clue authored the work, and their experience in stand-up comedy definitely shines through Leaving Iowa. The play was later made famous after being adopted by the Purple Rose Theatre Company, a well-known Midwest theatre company founded by Jeff Daniels (Yes, Harry from Dumb and Dumber; I checked).
The story comically opens with a flashback to a tumultuous road trip. The chaotic dialogue in the car ride symbolizes the universal family argument that usually surrounds a dad’s refusal to acknowledge that he is both lost and needs to ask for directions, while the kids complain in the backseat.
In the next, well-juxtaposed scene, the performance moves back to present time in which Mom, Don, and Sis intently search for Dad’s urn. Don finds the urn in an old, dusty box that sat on top the fuse box for three years in the basement. He then commits to honoring his father’s request to scatter his ashes at his childhood home in Mount Union.
Mom offers to spread the ashes herself, but Don vehemently rejects and states rather ambiguously, “…You both know why I should do this. OK?” With this mystery at the forefront of the viewer’s mind, the audience joins Don for a two-hour car ride filled with hilarious memories of his father and family vacations.
If you love to reminisce on sibling rivalry, parental tyranny, lame vacation destinations, or riotous family car rides, then Leaving Iowa will leave you in stitches through every act.
And although most promote the show as a comedy, the narrative also effectively portrays a son’s coming to grip with the death of his father. In short, it’s funny and moving.