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  • Theater, Musicals
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Iowa: Theater review by Adam Feldman

The verbiage in Jenny Schwartz’s Iowa flies out at you like a murmuration of starlings. Each brief, witty line seems to have a life of its own, but the dialogue rushes by at such a pace that you hardly have time to process it in discrete parts; what registers are the patterns, and the clarity that sometimes flashes through their hypnotic swirl. Jill Shackner plays Becca, a teenage girl whose frenetic and Internet-addled mother, Sandy (Karyn Quackenbush), abruptly decides to move them to Iowa to marry a man she’s been chatting with online. Barbed comic sequences ensue; the characters include a philandering pony (Lee Sellers), four multiculti Nancy Drews and a bickering brood of sister-wives in pastel prairie dresses.

Iowa’s satirical cartoonishness is captured splendidly in Ken Rus Schmoll’s staging, and the cast of eight sustains a remarkable tone of committed absurdism. (Annie McNamara, as a cheerleader and others, offers small miracles with every line reading.) Smart, off-angle pop art songs, by Schwartz and the excellent Todd Almond, add to the abundance of pleasures. “Heaven and earth do not touch one another,” sings a new mother in a lullaby. “But jump, jump, jump, jump up and try.” Iowa delights in taking just such leaps.—Adam Feldman

Playwrights Horizons (Off Broadway). Book by Jenny Schwartz. Music by Todd Almond. Lyrics by Almond and Schwartz. Directed by Ken Rus Schmoll. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 40mins. No intermission.

Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam


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