More than just a drive

MARSHALL – Described by critics as “simultaneously hilarious and touching” and “quintessential family entertainment,” the theater department at Southwest Minnesota State University got the chance to produce the new, enhanced version of “Leaving Iowa.”

“Leaving Iowa” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 21-23, Friday-Saturday, March 1-2 and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3, in the SMSU Fine Arts Theatre. The play is being directed by guest director John Olive, an adjunct professor of theater from Brooklyn Center.

The show, which is written by Tim Clue and Spike Manton, was recently updated by the duo, and the actors had to make some adjustments, Olive said.

“It’s been a new hurdle for them,” Olive said. “All of a sudden they had new linesIt’s a much better script. It flows better with a better quality.”

“There’s no real scene breaks, it’s taken in such a lyrical manner as every scene goes from one to the next,” Alex Castro said.

“I’ve never been part of show where it keeps flowing,” Tony Falk said.

“Leaving Iowa” follows Don, who is played by Falk, as he embarks on a drive across Iowa to fulfill his father’s final wish, to have his ashes laid to rest at his childhood home. During the play, Don reminisces about the family vacations he took with his parents and sister.

Falk said his character, Don, has a lot of unfinished business. When he initially looked at the script, he said, “I didn’t think it would be tough to do.”

Then rehearsals started, he said, and he said it’s a challenge to jump from the past to the present in the fast-paced show.

And between the two of them, Alex Pikala and Turi Jystad portray more than 20 characters. Pikala said the toughest part is making all of the characters different.

“You have a tendency to smush them altogether,” he said.

“But it’s fun because you get to experiment with all different people,” Jystad said.

Haley Jacobsen, who plays the mom in the show, said that with the flashbacks in the show, it’s a different way to forming a character.

“It’s a memory show, so over half of what goes on is Don remembering family vacations,” Jacobsen said.

The actors said the script lends itself to a lot of funny moments.

“I think a lot of it is situational,” Falk said.

“It’s wonderfully thought out,” said Castro, who plays Don’s father. “A lot of the comedy requires meticulous timing.”

Sonya Karels, who portrays Don’s sister, said the show is really chaotic and funny. She also appreciates playing a younger character.

“I like playing a kid,” Karels said. “I just like doing high-pitched voices.”

Both Castro and Olive said “Leaving Iowa” is relatable for the actors and the audience as well.

“I relate totally to it, it’s speaking to my generation,” Olive said.