In her new one-woman show "Housebroken," Megan Gogerty invites the audience to join her as she and her family seek the perfect house in Iowa City. With a cleverly crafted narrative, turn-on-a-dime comedic timing, and a healthy dose of poignancy, Gogerty thoroughly entertained a near-capacity crowd on April 11 at Riverside Theatre.
Gogerty, surrounded by moving boxes (many of them holding surprises that help her tell her tale), offered up a dynamic performance, emphasizing each laugh line with perfectly pitched physicality. Her story, which pokes fun at and shows affection for Iowa City in equal measure, is one of hope and heartbreak that leads to a thoughtful consideration of the nature of houses and homes.
With a stand-up comedian's understanding of the importance of the call back, Gogerty seeds her story with incidents and ideas that blossom into humorous moments later in the script. She jokes about Republicans (or the lack thereof) in Iowa City, about birds coming to dress her in her perfect walk-in closet, about binging on HGTV, about the prevalence of Hawkeye shrines. Each setup pays dividends later.
One senses that Gogerty could pull this performance off on a bare stage with a single spotlight, but the show is greatly enhanced by the work of the full creative team. Director Alexis Chamow has brought out Gogerty's best while scenic coordinator Violet Vernig has provided a playful space. Jess Fialko's lighting design highlights each scene, and Drew Bielinski's sound design - replete with songs and themes that characterize key moments - is delightful.
"Housebroken" includes just a few sequences that slow the story down. A dance to Etta James' "At Last" is the most notable. While Gogerty commits to her choreography with various objects on stage - a paint roller, a broom, a hand truck - the bit is longer than it needs to be. Still, this hardly detracted from the overall success of the performance.
At both intermission and after the show, there was quite a lot of buzz among attendees about how the show is "so Iowa City." And that's certainly true.
But Gogerty has also done an excellent job of sketching in the town without making her story fully dependent on it. There are in jokes, to be sure, but Gogerty is also going to be able to take her vision of Iowa City into other communities, where it seems likely it will garner plenty of laughs and strike the same emotional chords it does on the Riverside stage.
I suspect Gogerty and her story of houses can transform any audience into a home crowd.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays April 11 to 26.
WHERE: Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St., Iowa City
COST: $18 to $30
DETAILS: Riversidetheatre.org or (319) 338-7672