April 13, 2015

Aiming for the endearingly zany, the new musical “Iowa” overshoots the runway, landing somewhere in the vicinity of complete inanity. This oppressively antic show, about the uneasy relationship between an introverted teenage girl and her excessively — make that lunatically — outgoing mother, plays like a series of songs, scenes and sketches with little connecting tissue. Featuring a book by Jenny Schwartz, music by Todd Almond and lyrics by both, “Iowa,” which opened on Monday at Playwrights Horizons (where the program cover and title page call it, confusingly, “Iow@”), tells of the middle-aged Sandy (Karyn Quackenbush), who has been conducting an online romance with a man she met on Facebook. Desperate to seem youthful, she tends to speak in textese. In a loopy monologue about sex, she asks her 14-year-old daughter, Becca (Jill Shackner), “BTW are you a lesbian?” The answer, which is no, comes during a conversation in which Sandy introduces Becca, via Skype it would appear, to Roger, the man she calls her fiancé. His voice occasionally interrupts Sandy’s dithery and often cruel ramblings about Becca, whom she mockingly calls Bookah, because she reads a lot.