I’m getting to the point where it’s rare for me to come across a theatre company that’s existed for awhile, I haven’t been to a production of, or at least heard of. Usually when that happens, I’m not going to be overwhelmed, there’s a reason I haven’t heard of them in those cases. I’d never heard of Sidekick Theatre but when I received the press release, the show sounded fun and I like to discover new companies and venues. The play Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help was being performed at the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center. Now I don’t know why, but for some reason I was expecting something sort of makeshift, like a lecture hall that they also use as a theater or something. Honestly, when I drove up, I downgraded my expectations in terms of the facility. I was almost certain there must be an assisted living housing for seniors attached to the Heritage Center. Boy, was I wrong. When I walked in I was very surprised and impressed with the set that greeted me. I knew at once I was likely in for a pleasant surprise. Once the play began, I was equally impressed with the theater’s sound and lighting systems. The play itself lived up to the promise of it’s amusing synopsis and the cast was far from the group of, “let’s put on a show” amateurs I was inexplicably expecting. Perusal of the program connected some dots for me as I started to recognize some names like Director Tim Stolz, but it also reaffirmed that this was a small theater company. There are three people listed in the production staff, I think that’s less than a high school usually has. I don’t know how they put together such a professional show, but I’m sure glad I discovered them. Located in the far northwestern corner of Bloomington, Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help is worth making the trek for.
The play is written by Katie Forgette and as the main character Linda O’Shea describes it, this is a memory play. Forgette has Linda introduce us to the members of her family before the story begins. She and the other characters will break the fourth wall several times throughout the play, a lot of the humor coming from the fact that we are viewing the 1970’s through our 2020’s eyes.
“For one week in 1973, the O’Shea family faces a crisis of biblical proportions when a simpleSidekick Theatre press release
conversation about the birds and the bees threatens to turn into a parish-wide scandal.
With their good name at stake, the quick-witted women of the O’Shea household must
work together to preserve their honor and prove that nothing is stronger than a family
I don’t want to spoil any of the best jokes or the surprises to be had in the show but want to acknowledge one of Forgette’s cleverest inventions. Linda says that her father’s personality was so strong that in her memories he always does impressions of other people. This allows the actor playing the father to also play the local priest as well as the noisy woman from the church congregation. It’s a funny and practical way to keep the cast small while adding to the comic nature of the play.
The entire cast is wonderful, I don’t even have a favorite. Tara Borman plays Linda, whose memory this play is, she has the straight man as we all do in our memories. We are the normal ones while everyone around are a bit eccentric right? She does a nice job of playing both the detached narrator and her younger self within the memory. She’s warm and engages with the audience in a way that feels completely natural. Michelle Myers is Jo, the mother of the O’Shea household, and Tinia Moulder is her sister Terri who’s staying with them while on a break from her husband. These performers know how to play these 70’s women to a tee, they are at once recognizable without falling into the area of caricature. Okay, maybe I do have a slight favorite but if I do, it’s Audrey Parker as the 13 year old, little sister Becky. I always find it a difficult task for grown men and women to play kids. It’s really easy to come off as childish, which quickly becomes annoying. Parker side steps that pitfall with ease, creating a character that is entertaining and quirky, believing she’s 13. Not childish, but because she acts like a person with the understanding and imagination of a real 13 year old, obsessed with classic movies. Maybe it’s a little bit that too, she reminds me of myself at 13. Last but not least is Timothy Thomas who plays the Father, the Father (meaning the Priest), and the busy body woman who’s trying to suss out why the parish priest is so upset with the O’Shea family. In the tradition of comic actors playing multiple roles in a play, Thomas plays them all rather broad, nothing else would work, these are the outsized characters of Linda’s memories all embodied by her father because he was also bigger than life to her. Thomas is very funny as Linda’s Father Mike and the nosy neighbor. Then he does rather a 180 and plays the priest rather serious and stern, which is perfect, as that aspect would certainly be amplified in Linda’s mind. I really enjoyed everyone in this cast immensely as I have in their performances elsewhere. I don’t know why I went in with such a misconception of what I’d be seeing, but I was delighted to recognize everyone in the cast and as soon as I did my expectations were elevated.
The production is directed by Tim Stolz who also serves as the Scenic Designer. Stolz has a clear understanding on how to stage this “memory” play, a less talented director could easily have turned it into a stop and start nightmare. Stolz knows how to bring Linda and the other characters in and out of the story seamlessly. His set design was a blast from the past with it’s yellow refrigerator and matching stove and the plaid armchair. I loved it. Then there was a moment when someone opens the front door to leave and there’s a fence outside the front door. That little detail was so unexpected and really drove home the detail that went into creating this space for the action to take place in. John A. Woskoff is the Costume Designer and just perfectly captures the real 1970’s. Far too often when creating a retro look, the costumes go too far and end up being a parody of what people really wore. I appreciated how Woskoff didn’t go for the easy laugh but kept it grounded and authentic. If you were around in the 70’s you know that when it comes to the fashion of the time, there is humor enough in just keeping it real. The third and final member of the production staff is Toni Solie who designed the props and again, nothing goes too far and so it helps ground us in Linda’s memory which is what serves the play best.
Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help runs through May 14th for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://sidekicktheatre.com/incident
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