Riverside Theatre — April 23-25 at 7:30 p.m., April 26 at 2 p.m.
Megan Gogerty’s previous original one-woman show, Feet First in the Water with a Baby in My Teeth, dealt with parenthood, a topic which elicits universal hopes and fears in spite of the unique quirks of each child. Her current show at the Riverside Theatre, Housebroken, takes on another logical step in the march toward respectable adulthood — buying a house.
On the surface, buying a new home feels like a more individual experience for each person or family. It is also becoming a more rare experience. Due to economic troubles and later ages of marriage, Millennials are less likely to own a home than people their age in previous generations.
Gogerty addresses these economic issues at the beginning of Housebroken. She is an actress and writer, while her husband is a musician. They picked Iowa City to settle in because they “wanted to be artists and homeowners at the same time,” and this seemed to be one of the few locations where they could accomplish this feat.
In her tale of upgrading from their starter home to a bigger “forever home,” Iowa City becomes a full-fledged character. The back of the set is a painted map of the area with local landmarks, looking like a postcard from an era when an Eastern Iowa town could be exotic to a far-flung pen pal.
Much of the humor, especially in the first act, seems to cater specifically to Iowa Citians (Iowa Citizens?). As Gogerty and her husband consider their move, she plays up the slight differences between the artsy, lower-middle class East Side and the ritzy upper-middle class West Side. (“If Iowa City had Republicans, they’d live there.”) They also note that many of the houses they view have dedicated Hawkeye Rooms, black and gold shrines to Herky. These characterizations of Iowa City feel like they are treading familiar territory, making observations that can be said of most college towns that attract creative types.
Gogerty is animated and free, creating a whimsical world out of moving supplies. She dances through stacks of boxes that evoke the sparse-yet-cluttered conditions of a home in transition. While she is known for her wild comic energy, her most successful moments in Housebroken are when she is being honest about the feelings she has tied up in selecting a house. When one house gives her visions of an Audrey Hepburn life, she hopes, “If I bought this house, I would become the sort of person who bought this house.”
In Act 2, her story takes a dark turn — or at least, as dark as you can get in a comedy about buying a house. She slumps next to her boxes, now a symbol of limbo, considering what this protracted process is doing to her husband and children. There is saying from Israel, “Change your place, change your luck.”
Gogerty pokes holes in this idea that buying your dream house will lead to a dream life. Instead of Prince Charming, she had been thinking, “Some day our house will come.” In the end, her humorous insights provide a gentle reminder that it is not the foundation and drywall, but the people and experiences inside that make a house a home.