A vacation story

“Leaving Iowa” has been described as “the most frighteningly realistic depiction of a family summer road trip,” so it is only appropriate that Mid-Ohio Valley Players is putting on this play during peak vacation time.

It is also a touching and funny play perfect for Father’s Day and, with the new air conditioning installed in the theater, a great summer activity for the entire family, said director Marlene Somerville.

The story focuses on Don Browning, a middle-aged journalist who has been handed the task of returning his “greatest generation” father’s ashes to the old homestead. Unfortunately, the homestead has been replaced by a grocery store and Don has to drive around Iowa searching for a suitable location and reliving vacations past.

Somerville has been involved in every aspect of MOVP for 45 years and chose this play to round out the season after seeing an excerpt at the Ohio Community Theater Awards Festival in 2010.

“It is just so touching and fun and within this play you will see people you know, I don’t care who you are,” she said.

Marty Durham, 51, of Belpre, has around 20 productions under his belt with the Players. He takes on the role of Don and draws from some of his own experiences as a father of two girls and grandfather of three.

“It is really one of my favorite roles because I can remember these trips as a dad – and now a granddad – where I point out something to the kids and they’re asleep in the backseat,” he laughed.

Durham said he has played every role imaginable from a good guy to a bad guy, funny, sad and everything in between. But he still finds challenges in every role.

“I play Don as a middle-aged man and as a 10-year-old boy. It’s funny because in a child’s mind, everything about memories is exaggerated,” he said. “But this is a very difficult show. There is a lot of repetition, a lot of lines and there’s a soundtrack, which is something I am not used to.”

Somerville said that everyone – from seasoned veterans Carol Wharff and David Offenberger, who have 22 parts between them in this show, to those new to the stage – has really put a lot of work into the production.

“We are so grateful to the cast and crew,” she said. “Everyone worked so hard and everyone works well together.”

Newcomer Melissa Taylor said she has found her first play experience to be nerve-wracking and tense but “really fun.” Taylor plays Don’s mom and the 23-year-old Belpre resident has to undergo a transformation of 40 years.

“I play her from about age 30 to about 70,” she said.

With the first public performance date looming on Friday, Taylor is very nervous but also very excited and credits her director with helping her through.

“I like Marlene. She has been good at molding me and she is really good at giving directions,” she said.

Durham agreed that working with Somerville has helped him to delve into the character and put a lot of effort into the production.

“Marlene really cares … whatever show she picks, she has a passion for and wants it to resonate with the audience,” he said.

Show dates are June 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29 at 8 p.m. and June 23 at 3 p.m.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.midohiovalleyplayers.org. The next production will be the Junior Players production of “The Music Man Jr.” Aug. 2, 3 and 4.