116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Funny, powerful, shocking. One of these words doesn’t feel like the others, yet all three describe “Cycle Play,” an Iowa premiere that will leave your head spinning.
Mirrorbox Theatre is bringing its artistry to Theatre Cedar Rapids’ Grandon Studio, a black box space that shows just how flexible a small space can be for staging an intimate show in a big way. It’s the kind of flexibility Mirrorbox will be able to offer artists and audiences when it moves into its new home that’s now being renovated in the city’s Time Check neighborhood.
It’s an exciting time for this professional troupe, and “Cycle Play” is an exciting way to return to in-person productions, after Mirrorbox successfully explored the virtual realm during the pandemic.
The script, by Megan Tabaque of Atlanta, springs to life under Carrie Pozdol’s lively direction that allows actors Rachel Korach Howell as Georgia and Claire Boston as Heather to forge a toxic friendship when merging their lonely, toxic lives.
They meet when Heather enters a boutique cycling studio, wanting to take a spin class, but, in the midst of a messy divorce, she can’t afford it. Georgia, a spin class veteran, offers to cover the bill, recognizing Heather’s need to redirect her anger and kick up some endorphins.
Thus begins the evolution of a friendship that moves from the ups and downs of their stationary bikes to the ups and downs of their lives. As Georgia lets down her guard and Heather builds up her self-esteem, they forge a trust that lets them peel back the layers of the deepest secrets roiling in their bellies. And when these volcanoes eventually erupt, the molten lava flows through the action and engulfs the audience.
But before the shock and awe, come moments of levity as disarming as the ending.
Korach Howell gives Georgia a tough, sinewy edge that masks her inner empathy. Boston imbues Heather with a softness through an almost manic chirpiness that washes over Georgia as they develop their high school-like “hey, girl” rituals over their morning smoothies. And Pozdol moves them like chess pieces around a high-top cafe table, in a brilliant way that mirrors the passage of time.
And then one day, Heather exclaims: “I am a bomb ready to explode.” When she does, mayhem ensues, and the women begin fighting in a vicious, visceral way.
That it unfolds in a most believable way is a testament to the skill of fight choreographer Kehry Anson Lane, a fine actor and director who also happens to be Korach Howell’s husband. All of the kicking and hitting look real, which is no easy feat when the audience is practically on top of the actors.
The technical aspects envelop the action and move it along, from Chantelle Mobberley’s versatile set pieces to Jim Vogt’s atmospheric lighting, Karle Meyers’ costumes that move easily from the bicycles to the throw-downs, and especially to Bri Atwood’s sound design that rocks every scene and nuance of this deep, quirky show.
When the applause died down and the lights came up after last Thursday’s opening show, one stunned audience member said under her breath, “I’m going to need to process this.” That sentiment echoed as everyone filed out, engrossed in hushed conversations. It’s that rare kind of show I want to see again.
Performances continue this week, Thursday through Sunday.
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