By Shari Barrett
INCIDENT AT OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP tells the story of the O’Sheas, a cash-challenged, Irish-Catholic family just trying to get through 1973, a time of old-school living: no Facebook, no tweets, no texting, no Skype. A time when public ridicule in a close-knit, hermetically sealed Catholic parish was the ultimate nightmare. But it was also a time when a new era of personal freedom was dawning; when “Our Bodies, Ourselves” drew a line between what was informative to teens while being pornographic to their parents.
Such is the life of the play’s 19-year-old narrator, Linda O’Shea, who immediately breaks the fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience, drawing us into her family life and its daily challenges. But at the center of her reason for sharing is her attempt to re-enact the most turbulent day of her life. That is, if her family will stop interrupting her memories and insisting their versions are the more truthful! It’s a comedy fest of how such different family members will pull together when the going gets tough, no matter how much they disagree on the cause.
The incident referred to in the title occurs when Linda’s mother leaves it to Linda to tell her younger sister Becky about the birds and the bees. Seems like a simple enough request. But young, precocious Becky manages to record the truth-filled, sometimes bawdy conversation, which is somehow overheard by the parish priest… and Father Lovett is not amused. He sets out to confront the family about “the corruption of their eldest daughter’s soul.” And the laughs abound from there as the dominos in Linda’s life fall down one by one!
Brilliantly directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky who keeps her actors moving about in such a realistic way on Jeff G. Rack’s amazingly detailed set, it’s easy to feel like a fly on the wall of a real family’s home, nodding at how much of your own family dynamics are being revealed. Blessed with a talented cast who thoroughly embody their roles, kudos first go to Ivy Khan as the tempestuous Linda whose newfound freedom rises up to slap her in the face. But, of course, her mother Jo (the always engaging Alison Blanchard) is a perfect example of the hardworking housewife who does it all, even caring for her husband’s invalid mother upstairs, whose banging on the floor demanding attention would drive the best of us crazy! But in the sure hands of Tobolowsky and her cast, the humor in every situation always shines through.
Rounding out the talented cast are Danika Hughley as younger sister Becky, a pre-pubescent girl who fancies herself a sleuth aka Humphrey Bogart in a trenchcoat (hence the hidden tape recorder), Milda Dacys as Jo’s sister-in-law Terri, a perfect mix of old-fashioned ways viewed through a more modern open mind, and Patrick Skelton as family patriarch Mike who changed costumes to become the priest as well as his meddling secretary, while always reminding us he is very aware of what his daughter is making him do to tell her story.
I enjoyed this play so much and highly recommend it to everyone, as I know you will be laughing from start to finish during this well-written and performed tribute to family love overcoming any odds.
The Los Angeles premiere of Katie Forgette’s INCIDENT AT OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP, directed by Ann Hearn Tobolowsky and produced for Theatre 40 by David Hunt Stafford, runs Thursday- Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. through Feb. 19. Run time is 90 minutes without an intermission. Reserved seat admission is $35, with reservations at (310) 364-0535 or online at www.theatre40.org. Theatre 40 is located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, on the campus of Beverly Hills High School at 241 S. Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills 90212. Enter through the driveway at the intersection of Durant and Moreno Drives to reach free parking in the lot adjacent the theatre. Masks are strongly recommended but not required.
Attention fans of British Invasion bands of the 1960s – hurry and get tickets to the HERMAN’S HERMITS concert starring Peter Noone, presented by Sterling Venues at the Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills 90211, this Friday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. See why Peter Noone’s extraordinary talent, disarming wit and compelling stage presence continue to delight fans around the world! Tickets run $38-$68 at https://www.axs.com/events/450177/herman-s-hermits-starring-peter-noone-tickets?skin=saban All audience members under 18 must be accompanied by a paying adult. Check out exciting shows in February including Paul Anka, Stephanie Mills and El Debarge, Cinderella by the World Ballet, and Pink Floyd tribute band The Gilmore Project performing Dark Side of the Moon, at https://wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com/saban-beverly-hills/events/