“Incident at OLPH” is Hilarious, Warm and Modern Storytelling

It is not so much a Catholic comedy as a FAMILY comedy, and you will relate to the dilemmas no matter what your age or religion.

Review by Liz Eichler

I wasn’t quite certain “The Incident at OLPH” was for me. It is Easter weekend, and the Catholic guilt wasn’t ready for a Catholic bashing play. But it is not all that, instead you will find “OLPH” a hilarious and warm tale, very well produced by Human Race Theatre, Dayton.

“The Incident at OLPH” is a play about Linda, who is growing up and beyond the boundaries of her family and parish, eager to be a part of the changing world, and humorously shares directly with the audience her life changing week in 1973. Throughout this presentational play, which knows it is a play and speaks directly to the audience–even debating play structure with the other characters–we see a sweet young woman balancing and reconciling love of family and tradition with her innate energy and drive.  It is the perfect Easter weekend show, or for anyone who either grew up in the 70’s, knows someone who did, or just wants some laughs.  

If you did grow up in the 70’s, the set designer (Eric Moore) does a great job reminding you.  Did you have that formica end table, with a collection of magazines, puzzles, and important papers piled underneath?  Did you have those tan vinyl chairs (or a version in avocado, harvest gold or burnt orange)? The formica kitchen table with metal legs? The avocado oven, fridge and stove hood?  It is all very familiar to most of the audience, and well lit by John Rensel. The clothing (Janet G. Powell)  is representative too. The phenomenal music (Julian Crocamo) before, during and after the play, is the only thing that didn’t age, right? 

Directed by Margarett Perry, the show works as a tight ensemble piece. Cecily Dowd plays the lead, Linda O’Shea, does so with great heart.  She is a likable comedic actress with great timing, energy, and a sparkle. Linda shares that this is a memory play, much of it is false, and every time you remember it it is slightly different. She may be an “unreliable narrator” but Dowd is quite a reliable actress as it is her energy that drives the show, which noticeably slows when she is off stage.

Linda’s mom, the never complaining but overworked Jo O’Shea, is played perfectly by Christine Brunner. Mierka Girken plays her Aunt Terri, with a cigarette-raspy voice, and an attitude–but that aunt that every teen wants to hang with. There’s chemistry between them all. Dad Mike is played with great fun by Jason Podplesky who carries a great deal of the physical comedy as Dad and his other roles as the scary priest, and the busybody. Lizzie Huelskamp rounds out the cast as the odd sister, Becky. 

This show is a treat, it is both a warm hug and a great drive down memory lane. It is not so much a Catholic comedy as a FAMILY comedy, and you will relate to the dilemmas no matter what your age or religion. “The Incident at OLPH” plays through May 1 —- and you can purchase tickets HERE.

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