Arts & Culture

REVIEW: 'Parking Lot' revs up pandemic theater - from CSPS parking lot

Mirrorbox troupe stages new play in ideal location

Terry (Scot Hughes) maneuvers through an obstacle course while wife J (Marcia Hughes) looks on with glee in #x201c;The P
Terry (Scot Hughes) maneuvers through an obstacle course while wife J (Marcia Hughes) looks on with glee in “The Parking Lot.” It’s a metaphor for the way the couple are examining their marriage in this Mirrorbox Theatre production. The two-person show plays out through Sept. 26 in the parking lot behind CSPS Hall in southeast Cedar Rapids, with audience members watching from their vehicles. (Mirrorbox Theatre)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The good old days just got better.

Remember the fun and excitement of heading to the drive-in movies on a Saturday night, toting kids in their pjs, plenty of snacks and a jug of Kool-Aid? Leave the kids at home, but bring the snacks or your to-go dinner and head to the parking lot behind CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, for a drive-in play.

Playwright Adam Szymkowicz hit on a simply brilliant plan, hatched during the pandemic, of penning a play revolving around a parking lot, to be performed in a parking lot, with audience members staying in their vehicles.

Mirrorbox Theatre, the only theater in the state dedicated to staging Iowa debuts of new works, has found the perfect place to present “The Parking Lot” — right outside CSPS, the professional troupe’s pre-pandemic indoor home. Space for 22 vehicles has been blocked off in the newish parking lot behind the historic hall, creating optimum viewing for the two-person show.

It opened Friday with a sold-out crowd, followed by another sold-out audience Saturday, and continues through Sept. 26.

And artistic director Cavan Hallman has found the perfect couple to portray Terry and J — Scot and Marcia Hughes of Cedar Rapids, who have proved their mettle on Corridor stages, and even met doing community theater in Ottumwa in 1987.

While COVID-19 doesn’t play a role in the dialogue, except for one passing glance, the script calls for two actors who live together, since they’ve already shared germs and will share several sweet hugs and kisses as the story unfolds. The bonus is that Scot and Marcia fit the age and marriage longevity of Terry and J, so every bit of dialogue rings true.

I happen to know the couple, so all the playfulness, seriousness, genuine love, frustrations and analytical thought that play out on the pavement play out in their real life, too. Except for the part about calling it quits — and not having any kids. (Scot and Marcia have two kids, a son-in-law and a granddaughter.)

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Terry (Scot) and J (Marcia) retreat to a parking lot — the setting for some of their biggest milestones, from their meeting to their engagement, and various breakups and makeups — to bare their souls. With all of those moments in the rearview mirror, they’ve stalled.

Has their marriage run its course?

For Terry, a parking lot represents a kind of limbo or a wasteland between destinations. For J, it’s a blank canvas with limitless possibilities. Clearly, they need to find their middle ground.

With chalk in hand, Terry draws out “pro” and “con” sections, and as they examine what they love and what drives them crazy about each other, one of them makes a mark under the appropriate heading. Whichever section has the most marks at the end of their 70-minute discussion will help them decide the state of their union.

They jump onto the roller coaster, rewinding the clock to their second meeting, an awkward exchange in a parking lot, where Terry stumbles over his words, much to J’s delight. They continue through an obstacle course of twists, turns, jumps and spins as they try to answer that age-old question: Why did we get married? Followed by: Why should we stay married?

I won’t give away their ultimate decision, but their journey of discovery creates a most delicious blending of Candyland, Trouble and Mousetrap in their Game of Life.

Comments: (319) 368-8508; diana.nollen@thegazette.com

If you go

• What: Mirrorbox Theatre presents: “The Parking Lot”

• Where: Staged in the parking lot behind CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids; audience members will watch from their vehicles, with audio accessed over an open FM frequency to be announced

• When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23, 24, 26; 70 minutes, no intermission

• Tickets: $40 per vehicle; in advance at Mirrorboxtheatre.com/ or at the gate, if available

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• Safety: Viewers must remain inside their vehicles at all times, with windows open no more than 3 inches; engines may remain on to use heating or cooling systems; CSPS bathrooms will not be available

• Details: Mirrorboxtheatre.com/the-parking-lot/

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