I remember reading Erma Bombeck’s newspaper columns occasionally growing up. Even though I’m hardly the target demographic, I often found her quite funny. That’s sorta how I felt about this one-woman play currently running at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
Written by a pair of twin sisters (Allison and Margaret Engel), this earnest tribute to one of America’s iconic ladies is quick-witted and sharply paced. Featuring talented actress Barbara Chisholm, the audience is given a 65-minute autobiographical version of Bombeck’s life – from her father’s death at the age of nine to parenting her three children and making a home for them and her husband, Bill. And of course, there’s the trademark wit and humor she was known for.
To younger audiences, it might seem cheesy. But even those unfamiliar with Erma’s work will appreciate her charm, her grounded sense of humor, and will likely root for her throughout her story. If nothing else, this production gives us a window into our country’s past while showing us that some things really haven’t changed too much.
Director David Esbjornson has the daunting task of blocking a single actress so that audiences on all three sides of the stage stay engaged. I had a great seat in the front row of the house right away from the stage. I’m not certain how it played to those to my right, but with Chisolm’s charisma and natural style, I imagine they were as drawn in as I was.
This production was extended for more performances before it opened. I suspect this positive review – while nice – is unnecessary. This show will sell out. And why not? Erma was a local lady, nationally known for being an everywoman who knew how to spin a yarn in a relatable and hilarious way. It makes sense that Cincinnatians would flock to it.
I’m not quite the target demographic for this one. But I’m glad I saw it.
ERMA BOMBECK: AT WIT’S END runs through June 18th. Click here for tickets.