Her life and career are celebrated in Vista’s Broadway Theater’s funny and warm production of the one-woman show, Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End (named after Erma’s book of the same name).
Set in Erma’s (Susan Stuber) busy home, the writer starts off maintaining order in her household while spending time with her three children. Once they leave the house, Erma tells the audience about her career and personal life, including her relationship with her husband, Bill, and her advocacy for equal rights for women.
The script from twins, Allison and Margaret Engel, gets off to a slow start. Erma’s time spent with her kids, is an attempt to humanize the mom, but does not give much insight into Erma or her family.
Not helping matters is that audio effects from sound designer, Tommy Eyler, are intentionally repetitive. His audio improves, especially when additional voices are used to dramatize Erma’s growing interest in the Equal Rights Amendment.
Allison and Margaret Engel’s script begins to click when Erma starts talking about her past and her rise to fame. Dialogue, which includes direct quotes from Erma, is intelligently humorous and witty.
Younger audiences should know that the jokes do feel somewhat removed from the 21st century, since they represent the thoughts of a suburban mom dealing with issues that were more relevant when her column was in print. Although her humor is targeted towards housewives who lived through the mid-1960’s through the 1990’s, the jokes still land because of Stuber’s comedic timing.
Stuber plays Erma with an open book quality, and a passion for sharing revealing anecdotes about her family life. Even when Erma bluntly discusses her aggravation with her kids, the star’s joyful attitude keeps the wordsmith sympathetic and engaging.
Co-owner, Randall Hickman, directs with an emphasis on Stuber’s performance, so his staging is understated and does not distract from her acting onstage. Hickman’s set provides a welcoming environment, which perfectly fits Erma’s congenial attitude.
Despite Erma’s comedic and charismatic personality, moments that mix seriousness with levity that stay with theatregoers the most. Examples include Erma talking about readers who were impacted by her writing, and her nearly life long battle with polycystic kidney disease (PKS). The dramatic sequences add a decent amount of drama to the otherwise lighthearted evening.
Hickman’s version is an easygoing one that might be targeted towards older adults, yet features enough sharp dialogue and thoughtfulness for younger adults as well. If you are not familiar with the comic writer, the rendition serves as a solid introduction to a distinct and inviting voice.
Show times are tonight and Friday at 7:30 pm, Saturday at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm.