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Release: June 8, 2001

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe may be reached at
<>. "Escape From Happiness" director John Cameron may be reached at <>. Ticket sales have been brisk, and several performances are nearing sell-outs, so please call the box office for the latest ticket-availability information.)

Iowa Summer Rep 2001 opens June 21 with 'Escape From Happiness'

The Iowa Summer Rep festival of comedies by Canada's most popular English-language playwright, George F. Walker, will open with his 1992 romp "Escape From Happiness" at 8 p.m. Thursday, June 21 in the David Thayer Theatre of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. June 22-24, 26 and 27, July 1, 8, 10 and 12; 2 p.m. July 1; and 6 p.m. July 4.

"Escape from Happiness" takes family dysfunction to an outrageous extreme. Not only is the family Walker depicts crippled by delusions, neuroses and paranoia, but the crooks who break into their home have family issues of their own to resolve, and the investigating officers are a textbook case of a failed relationship.

One critic has called the resulting chaos "half Sam Shepard and half George S. Kaufman." Perry Tannenbaum wrote in the Charlotte Observer, "Canadian playwright George F. Walker would probably tell you that the social fabric in today's urban centers is in serious disrepair. But his telling you wouldn't be one-100th as hilarious -- or one-10th as disturbing -- as what he shows us in 'Escape From Happiness.'"

"The story is so extreme -- extremely painful, extremely beautiful, extremely funny," says director John Cameron, a faculty member in the UI department of theatre arts. "Walker turns a spotlight on every stumbling step of a family in crisis, and in the process gives us something that we can all identify with on a very visceral level."

Other artistic contributors to the production are costume and set designer Dan Nemteanu, sound designer Ethan J. Bade, and lighting designer Bryon Winn.

Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe says of the festival: "George F. Walker is not a household name in the United States, unlike many of the playwrights we've worked with over the years. He's as celebrated in Canada as Neil Simon is here, and just as prolific. He's simply a great playwright I'm proud to produce -- and, oh, so funny."

Walker's darkly comic stage plays have been translated into more than a half-dozen languages, and he has also been the writer of popular Canadian TV series and movies. Among his many honors in Canada are the Governor General's Awards for Drama for "Nothing Sacred" and "Criminals in Love," the Chalmers Canadian Play Award six times, and three Outstanding Play Awards in the DORA Awards. Walker has been resident playwright of the New York Shakespeare Festival, and his "Nothing Sacred" was a Los Angeles Times "Play of the Year."

A Chicago Sun-Times review declared, "No other living playwright pushes the boundaries of comedy as far, with often stunning results." A Village Voice review described his work as "black comedy with a depth of character that ravishes," and a review in the Washington Post said Walker creates a world "where humor and horror waltz drunkenly around in each other's arms."

Critic David Spencer wrote in New York's Aisle Say, "He invents quirky, anxiety-ridden, idiosyncratic characters; his balance of comedy against drama is awesome -- he is often at his funniest when the onstage situation is most desperate; and he is wonderful with dialogue. It's not poetic dialogue by any stretch, just contemporary colloquial English, but it rocks, man, and it rocks because it's sharp, laser-intense and unexpected. Characters come at things from odd angles, out of left field, with an oft-touching, always contradictory humanity."

This production contains material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should contact the department of theatre arts at (319) 335-2700 for additional information.

For many seasons Iowa Summer Rep has pursued a unique focus in American summer theater with its single-playwright festivals, but two seasons ago Iowa Summer Rep also became an Actor's Equity Company, elevating its status as a professional theater company.

Tickets for "Escape From Happiness" are $17 ($13 for senior citizens and $9 for UI students and audience members 17 and younger. Tickets may be purchased in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Tickets are also available at a substantial discount as part of an Iowa Summer Rep subscription package. A package, which included tickets to all three Walker productions, are $40 ($31 for senior citizens, and $22 for UI students and youth).

The other plays in the Iowa Summer Rep 2001 festival of George F. Walker comedies are "Risk Everything" directed by Iowa Summer Rep Artistic Director Eric Forsythe, June 28-July 22; and "Zastrozzi: The Master of Discipline" directed by guest artist Michael Sokoloff, July 5-7, 13 & 14.

Iowa Summer Rep theatergoers may enhance their theatrical outing with a choice of picnic dinners at the outdoor Comedy Cafe, overlooking the Iowa River. Reservations are strongly recommended by calling 319-335-3105, and orders are due before 5 p.m. one day in advance.

Hancher summer box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial
(319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The Department of Theatre Arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts. For UI arts information, visit <> on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.