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Human Race’s “Erma Bombeck” is a Joyful Portrayal of Dayton’s American Icon

Review by Liz Eichler of “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End”: Human Race Theatre

Jennifer Joplin as Erma Bombeck

Human Race Theatre has a true gem in the one-woman production of “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End.” The Dayton area native still inspires many American women who were raising children in the 1960’s to the 90’s, as she makes moms laugh and keep things in perspective. Actress Jennifer Joplin lights up the stage with her comedy as she shares Bombeck’s story, her foibles, and her battles.

Erma Bombeck did something no woman ever did: write about the daily grind of being a housewife, finding ways to laugh at the little things of being a mom in the suburbs, because if you don’t laugh, you could cry—or worse. Throughout the play we see Bombeck as a wife, mother, syndicated columnist, cancer survivor, and activist for the Equal Rights Amendment.  Over her career she demonstrated that raising kids is full of ironing and irony, especially when the tables turn and the child starts the parenting.

Written by twin sisters Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, this 60-minute show compiles some of Bombeck’s funniest lines with her history. Directed by Heather N. Powell, you learn more about Dayton’s beloved writer, as well as the fight for sanity and equality all women battle, mother or not. I have always been a fan of Bombeck, reading her books and columns, and enjoying her appearances on the daytime talk shows. I didn’t know that she transferred to the University of Dayton, where she received encouragement from one professor – “You can write!”  Those three little words made the difference, and she found success as a writer, while balancing her family life. She’s a testament to “write what you know” and “just write” philosophies. She’d close herself into her bedroom or laundry room to escape from the chaos at home to churn out her columns, two or three per week, syndicated in 900 papers in the U.S. and Canada, and multiple best sellers.

Jennifer Joplin captures the Everywoman of the mid to late 20th century, and gives her credit for being smart, funny, and resourceful. There’s many ways to be a good mom but knowing how to fold a fitted sheet isn’t a prerequisite. The audience follows Joplin as she demonstrates love and humanity for her family, her readers, and then as she reaches out to be a voice for all women. Joplin brings a quirkiness, a patience, warmth, and a joy that is contagious. Her thoughts range from “never go to a doctor whose office plants have died,” to “if life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?” and “It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”

Bring a friend who needs to know about University of Dayton’s famous Flyer, who has a street named for her on the campus. The show, produced by Human Race and performed at The Caryl D. Philips Creativity Center at 116 N. Jefferson Street in Downtown Dayton, has already extended its run, scheduled through May 20. Get your tickets today at ticketcenterstage.com or call (937)228-3630 to laugh with Joplin and Bombeck.