Comedy Today, in Iowa: Okay!

I’m always amused when I hear someone on the East or West Coast condescend to the residents of Iowa. That state has one of the nation’s highest literacy rates, still has music taught in most of its public schools (unlike most of the nation, alas), and just chose an African-American in its Democratic Presidential caucus. And yet even with all its cultural virtues, I still must say I’m a little stunned that the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts has just opened not in Manhattan but in Fairfield, Iowa. What could be more paradoxical than the musical poet of urban angst being celebrated in a town known mainly for its Transcendental Meditation university? And yet the Sondheim Center, which got underway last month with a gala concert, kicks off its first professional production tonight — “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” starring Richard Kind (pictured). Can a production of “Bounce” (which Kind starred in a few years back, and which in revised form will be directed by John Doyle and perhaps play New York’s Public Theatre in the future) be far behind?

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