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The Stage: Comedic plays to lighten the darkening days


Was the Word
Admission for Was the Word (pictured) at the Englert Theatre is “pay what you can,” with proceeds going toward an area nonprofit organization. — photo by Kaitlyn Busbee

This month, the stage offers a collection of amusing performances. Head to Theatre Cedar Rapids for two great plays: one that will get you in the holiday spirit and another that will make you laugh while portraying quirks of the human mind. In Iowa City, Dreamwell Theatre continues their season based on the theme “In Defense of Guilt” with a comedy about two friends and their injuries, Working Group Theatre opens up the stage to locals and University Theatre presents a comedy from the 17th century.

The Imaginary Invalid

University Theatre

French comedic playwright Moliere has been a favorite of theatre audiences ever since his plays were first staged in the 17th Century. Now, Corridor theatre patrons have a chance to see The Imaginary Invalid, one of Moliere’s most popular plays as well as his last—in more ways than one: He died several days after collapsing onstage while playing the main character.

Rich hypochondriac Argan` is spending his fortune on fraudulent medical treatments. When he demands that his daughter marry a doctor’s son so he can save on his medical costs, his family and servants hatch a scheme to allow the daughter to marry for love. Though medical advances like germ theory have dated some of the play’s criticisms of modern medicine, Moliere’s satire of quack doctors and obsessive patients who demand treatments (no matter how unnecessary) will always have a place in Western medicine.

The play runs at the University’s David Thayer Theatre November 14-17 and 20-23. Visit theatre.uiowa.edu for more information.

Jake’s Women

Theatre Cedar Rapids

In this Neil Simon comedy presented by Theatre Cedar Rapids, Jake is a frustrated writer with a disintegrating marriage. In order to gain some control over his life, he begins calling up visions of all the important female relatives, psychiatrists and lovers in his life. As his visions continue, they begin to act outside of his control—and he can no longer keep track of which women are real and which are not.

The original run of Jake’s Women premiered in 1990 starring Peter Coyote. Simon gave the play significant rewrites before 1992, when it began a 245-performance Broadway run with Alan Alda. The play remains an incisive commentary on the fleeting nature of control, both in relationships and within one’s mind.

The play runs in Theatre Cedar Rapids’ Grandon Studio from November 1-23. For more information, visit theatrecr.org.

Gruesome Playground Injuries

Dreamwell Theatre

For its third show of the season, Dreamwell Theatre is presenting the 2009 play by Rajiv Joseph, Gruesome Playground Injuries. Joseph uses biting humor to tell the story of two childhood friends, Kayleen and Doug, as they meet at intervals over the course of 30 years in order to compare their eponymous injuries and scars.

The playwright comes to the theatre from a nonlinear path: He spent three years with the Peace Corps in Senegal and had former ambitions to become a priest. Though his playwriting career is a relatively recent endeavor, his work has already gained critical acclaim, including a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 2010 play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. His Catholic upbringing comes through in his focus on sin and redemption, making his work a valuable addition to Dreamwell’s theatrical season based around the theme “In Defense of Guilt.”

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The play runs at the Unitarian Universalist Society November 15-16 and 22-23. For more information, visit dreamwell.com.

Was the Word
Was the Word’s main stage event kicks off on November 24 at the Englert. photo by Kaitlyn Busbee

Was the Word—“Stuffed”

Working Group Theatre

Get in the mood for Thanksgiving with the next installment of storytelling series Was the Word, where local actors, poets and musicians will perform original works based on what comes to mind when they think of the word “stuffed.”

Admission is “pay what you can,” and all proceeds will go to an area nonprofit organization.

Does seeing the word “stuffed” make you think of a Thanksgiving with a beloved relative or a hilarious time you stuffed yourself into a phone booth? This could be your chance to tell your story to an audience! After the performance, head over to Clinton Street Social Club for Was the Word: AFTER DARK—an open mic night where audience members can present original poems, stories and songs under 10 minutes long, and maybe even be asked to perform in future mainstage shows.

The mainstage event is at the Englert on November 24. Visit wastheword.org for more information on Was the Word and Was the Word: AFTER DARK.

Miracle on 34th Street

Theatre Cedar Rapids

The commercialism of Christmas has never been so heartwarming as in this theatrical adaptation of the 1947 holiday movie classic. When the event planners at Macy’s New York City department store must replace a drunk Santa actor, they replace him with a man who might just be the real thing. When Kris Kringle’s altruistic nature causes problems for the store, a chain of events leads to a trial to prove once and for all whether he is the genuine article.

Though Miracle on 34th Street is all about the Christmas season, the original movie was released in May because the studio believed that there would be higher movie attendance. Keep this in mind the next time you see a Christmas commercial on a 100 degree day during a September heatwave. The play not only inspires holiday spirit, but also brings back the grandeur of the mid-20th Century department store shopping experience.  Bring the children to this family-friendly production and tell them of a time when shoppers and store workers did not have to fear for their lives on Black Friday.

The play runs November 29 through Dec. 21 in Theatre Cedar Rapids’ Auditorium. Visit theatrecr.org for more information.

Jorie Slodki earned her MA in theatre research from University of Wisconsin, Madison, and has past experience in acting, directing and playwriting.


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