IOWA CITY — Brilliant playwright Sean Christopher Lewis of Iowa City normally rattles audiences with his searing dramas on the human condition.
Now he and his stellar acting buddies, Jim Van Valen of Mount Vernon and Martin Andrews of Iowa City, are rattling the rafters of Riverside Theater with laughter.
“Manning Up,” a look inside the secret fears of two soon-to-be fathers, is pregnant belly-laugh hilarious, with just enough heart-breaking moments to keep it grounded.
The show’s world premiere opened to roars, cheers, whistles and an immediate standing ovation Friday night (10/12/12) on Riverside’s intimate main stage, and plays through Oct. 28. Do not miss this flawless comedy.
The National New Play Network has selected it for a prestigious rolling national premiere, with subsequent productions by the Salt Lake Acting Company in Salt Lake City from Nov. 7 to Dec. 9, and the Actors’ Summit in Akron, Ohio from May 16 to June 2, 2013. (The latter audiences will especially hoot at the Cleveland references.)
All the action takes place in Raymond’s Midwest basement man cave, where the old couch, easy chair, lawn chairs and doors take a beating. Andrews (Raymond) and Van Valen (Donnie) are physical actors who throw themselves into the fray with abandon, delivering rambunctious sight gags, punctuated by Raymond’s snark.
Raymond is little and wiry and wound too tightly — a tough guy/professional actor who’s terrified he’ll screw up this new role. All the men in his life have run away, physically or emotionally.
Donnie is a popular English literature professor who has jumped aboard his wife’s hormonal roller coaster. The sensitive big guy who always got picked on in school, he worries his child will suffer the same fate — or worse — that he will embarrass his child.
They’re ticking time bombs, tormented about everything from sex to passing out in the delivery room to the end of life as they know it.
Equal parts pathos and poetry, everything about this smart, witty dialogue will sound familiar to anyone who has been a parent, known a parent or had a parent.
Every moment is a delightful moment, born of great honesty, clarity, insight and humor. I don’t want to give away too much, since half the fun lies in the anticipation.
The two best friends spend a lot of time talking each other off the ledge, and in the end, produce a natural-born tale with all its fingers and toes.
- What: “Manning Up”
- Where: Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St., Iowa City
- When: Through Oct. 28, 2012; 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
- Tickets and information: $15 to $28 at the Riverside Box Office, (319) 338-7672 or riversidetheatre.org