Growing Up Absurd

Steven Dietz's Still Life With Iris and Rocket Man blur the line between kid and adult

Rocket Man is competently acted (with standout performances by young Carol Roscoe as Donny's daughter and Lauren Tewes, who only vaguely resembles Julie McCoy, the chipper cruise director she played on The Love Boat for eight years), and both plays are given big, splashy productions. Iris is especially handsome, with dazzling special effects and elaborate, animated set pieces. (At one point, Iris announces that she's forgotten who she is, and the entire town in which she's standing vanishes into the flies.) Rocket Man's set is simpler, but no less impressive: During the course of Act One, the stage is slowly cleared away; later, it blows apart and is reassembled before our eyes.

In their simplest forms, both Rocket Man and Still Life With Iris are morality plays that promote that old saw about grabbing life and running with it. But thanks to Dietz's dense, provocative storytelling style, there's something more here. What appears to be a whimsical kids' play includes commentary about the evils of materialism, and Dietz's latest adult comedy is peopled with misfits who are slaves to their machines and who talk a lot about death. "Whether you're a kid just starting your life or someone contemplating midlife issues, there's something we have in common," Dietz says. "None of us will end up doing what we set out to do."

Arizona Theater Company's production of Rocket Man continues through Saturday, April 25; Childsplay's Still Life With Iris continues through Friday, April 24. Both are performed at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe.

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