TRAVERSE CITY — Scott Bufe recalls vividly his family’s interminable car trips from Duluth, Minn., to Northport each summer.
“I’m an only child, so I was bored. I never had anyone to fight with,” Bufe said. “I remember sitting in the back seat with the dog, who was panting on me.”
Now the aptly-careered car insurance salesman is directing a play about the kind of family vacations he and others in their 30s, 40s and 50s experienced in a more innocent time.
“Leaving Iowa” opens today at the Old Town Playhouse’s Studio Theatre at the Depot and runs through June 14.
The comedic yet touching play revolves around a middle-aged Boston writer who returns to his family home in Iowa for a nephew’s baptism. While there he decides to find a final resting place for his father’s ashes, which have languished for years in his mother's basement. Through the resulting journey, which brings back childhood memories of the dreaded family vacation, he reconciles his past and his present.
The work premiered at Jeff Daniels’ Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea and was nominated for Best New Play by the Detroit Free Press.
Bufe saw it produced at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, home of its creators, writers and stand-up comedians Tim Clue and Spike Manton.
“I really liked it and really wanted to do it up here,” Bufe said. “What made this stand out to me is that it’s a story about family and the love within the family and the things you sometimes don’t realize until a parent passes and maybe it’s too late.”
The OTP Studio Theatre production stars Chris Boyer as journalist Don Browning, Joe Kilpatrick as Dad, Linda Miller as Mom and Amber Carr-Kennedy as Sis.