By Matthew Kinney
“Ears on a Beatle”, by playwright Mark St. Germain, will take the stage at Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert St., Friday through April 29. St. Germain is also responsible for writing two of the theater’s previous productions, “Dancing Lessons” and “Relativity”.
The play follows an FBI agent and his new recruit in 1972 as they are assigned a unique job by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover: to get the politically outspoken John Lennon out of the country before Richard Nixon runs for re-election. The play is based on files declassified by the Freedom of Information Act.
“Ears on a Beatle” is simultaneously a hilarious, heartbreaking, and nostalgic look on a period in the United States that was filled with war, lies, and deceit. The play’s unique use of historical events mixed with humor, along with the intermingling of several famous characters and political events of their day is reminiscent of “Forrest Gump”.
The New York Daily News has described “Ears on a Beatle” as, “a funny but deeply involving piece of theater,” with further acclaim coming from publications such as the Denver Post and the Boston Globe, which have described the play as “fascinating, funny, and nostalgic” as well as “a compelling ethical/political exploration.”
Riverside Artistic Director and University of Iowa graduate Sean Lewis sees the play as being just as relevant today as it was in 1972.
“Ears on a Beatle is funny, smart, and based on true events,” Lewis said. “The play is a rollicking look at the world then and now.”
Chosen as the artistic director in 2016, Lewis has appeared in many productions over the years at Riverside, including “Death of a Salesman” and “True West”. Lewis also had a play he wrote, titled *Manning Up*, performed at Riverside.
After graduating from the UI Playwrights’ Workshop, Lewis toured the country for six years performing solo shows. His elaborate career led to appearances on “This American Life” and the production of shows in Africa before he was chosen as Riverside’s artistic director. Lewis’ approach as director is very community-oriented, and he puts an emphasis on providing opportunities for local theater artists.
*Ears on a Beatle”, with its unique blend of comedy, heartbreak, and nostalgia, continues the mission that Riverside has set for itself: to bring in a broad array of theatrical works from the area while giving local artists a chance to flourish.
“I want to bring forward what I think theater can do best: provoke thought, provoke wonder, inspire hope, and reveal a deeper understanding for theater,” Lewis said.
Founded in 1981, Riverside has been an Iowa City community staple and hub for artistic engagement. It hosts shows from September to April, with the summer months being dedicated to the performance of classic works.
“Ears on a Beatle”
When: Friday-April 29
Where: 213 N. Gilbert
Cost: $30, Adults; $18, Youth