IOWA CITY - A mantra recurs throughout Janet Schlapkohl's one-woman show, "Coming of Age in Chore Boots," linking a variety of anecdotes and ideas together.
In the new Riverside Theatre production of the play, I believe that mantra has been altered slightly from the version used in the early 2014 run of the show.
Schlapkohl tells us the words to live by in her Iowa farming community (and beyond) are, "Get back. Pay attention. Hold on." When I saw the show nearly two years ago, I noted the instructions as, "Pay attention. Watch it. Get back." The change adds strength to Schlapkohl's themes of attention and resilience and shores up the ending, making the concluding moments more resonant.
The strengths of the show, again directed by Tim Budd, remain intact. Schlapkohl's blending of her experiences as a bat girl for a high school softball team with a consideration of the war in Vietnam is artfully constructed and delivered. Her ability to quickly switch among multiple characters, bringing each one to life with voices and mannerisms, is delightful. And her comic timing is impeccable - both in terms of the structure of her script and her ability to deliver the lines at the right moment in the perfect tone.
What came through more clearly to me this time than last is how much the play is about the community of women - generations of women in her family, the softball team, segregated sex ed classes (which continued, hilariously, at home), the Wapsipinicon Women's Club, the grad student wives at a holiday party, the sorority of motherhood.
Schlapkohl explores her shifting roles and levels of comfort inside these communities, while also illuminating the societal shifts that must be navigated, embraced, or rejected over time.
Drew Bielinski's lighting and sound design are excellent, highlighting and helping to shape each moment appropriately. Violet Virnig's scenic design invokes a farm while providing much flexibility for Schlapkohl as she creates new spaces with the help of the lighting, a few props, simple but perfect costume changes.
I recommended "Coming of Age in Chore Boots" two years ago; I think it's even better now.
If you go
l Show time: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 19.
l Where: Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St., Iowa City
l Tickets: Call (319) 338-7672 or get them in person at the theater, 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Buy online at riversidetheatre.org.
l Cost: Adults, $30; over 60/under 30, $28; youth, $18; students, $12 on Thursdays and rush 10 minutes before a performance; veterans, military personnel, and immediate family, $24