The Van Wert County Courthouse

Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021

Review: OSP play zany costume comedy

PERRY LUHN/for the Van Wert independent

Perhaps the most famous of the many plays written by the playwright trio of Jones, Hope, and Wooten, is Dixie Swim Club. It has been produced nearly everywhere: A funny, sad, and serious story of women long past their glory years, “Dixie” has come to be the standard by which these writers are measured.

There are quite a few other hilarious shows penned by this trio that are making the rounds of the dinner theatre circuit, giving loads of stage vets lots of opportunities to participate in the laughs. I guess I didn’t realize this, but just last year, I, myself, got to participate, appearing in the romp entitled Christmas Belles. It was a blast.

In fact, every one of the JHW shows I have been able to attend has been a blast, not only for the cast, but for the audience as well. On Wednesday evening at Vantage Career Center in Van Wert, I was able to see Off Stage Productions’ presentation of Farce of Habit. This story, which is a little bit romance, a little bit thriller, and a lot comedy, is next in store for the patrons of the group, which always has ’em laughing right after dinner. The OSP crew always delivers on the laughs, and I was primed to go.

The story revolves around an inn that is run by a couple with their own problems, but who somehow manage to accumulate more woes. But, hey, it wouldn’t be funny if they solved their problems too soon, right? The couple’s son is, God forbid, an actor in community theatre, to the dismay of his wife, who is unaware of his hobby and thinks he is cheating on her.  

The inn owners, Wannelle and Gene Wilburn (Kelly Smith and John Vining), each have their own cross to bear. She can’t give up caffeine and he can’t stop scratching. Everywhere. The two actors are a match for each other in parts which must be over the top. Some of Kelly’s facial expressions are precious and tortuous at the same time. Mr. Vining’s scratching is appropriately annoying. He really wants to fish, not help his wife out with the inn tasks. These two must carry much of the first act and they make it work.

Son, Ty, the theatre nerd, is hilarious, not just because of the incredible costumes he carries off, but because of the deadpan expressions he can manifest when the others are making fun of his attire. A fun role for Jonathan Denny. He did a great job in the five-inch heels. Ty’s wife (or is she?), Jenna, is played with verve by Rachael Dettrow. She is going to make her hubby pay for his “indiscretion” and plays him like a fiddle. She gets her chance to play dress-up as well later on.

In fact, if I had to characterize this script, I would call it a “comedy costume piece”. It seems like everyone gets to try something outrageous on, and director Matthew Krol and his staff have found some pretty outrageous clothes. They were colorful, appropriate, and well-constructed. I was always wondering what kind of crazy thing would appear on stage next. 

There are other characters, without whom this play would be less than exciting. As the famous talk show host Jock McNair, Steve Bricker is a pain in the rear-section. We don’t like him and we aren’t supposed to. Bricker is more than adequate at being this kind of pain. Kecia Pontius plays Barbara Stratton, McNair’s furious, soon-to-be ex-wife. She has a maniacal look to her that both gets us giggling and frightens us.

Dolores Foreman is the local cop, Maxie Wilburn Suggs, who is also the sister of Gene Wilburn. Maxie is kooky and also gets her own wild costume. Foreman is dense, when she needs to be, yet full of “wisdom”.

Two of my favorites, Lisa and Ed Eichler, round out the cast. Lisa plays the nun, Sister Myrtle Agnes, who appears revolted by some of the goings-on in the inn, but has her own axe to grind. Ed gets the enviable task of playing a witless and spastic character, Huddle Fisk, who visits the inn in search of an interesting vacation and finds it, to his great satisfaction. The Eichlers always know how to flesh out their characters and are a joy to watch.

I Googled the writing trio for this show and discovered that I had been aware of several of their efforts. I would be the first to recommend them to area residents, including this play. It has a great share of laughs and memorable characters. Local residents are encouraged to make reservations for the dinner-theatre nights, Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21, and 27 and 28. Two performances will also be given on the next two Fridays that will not include dinner.  

To get tickets, call 419.605.6708. Enjoy!

POSTED: 10/19/18 at 7:38 am. FILED UNDER: Arts & Entertainment, News