Reviews: “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End” in Napa & “Vincent” in Santa Rosa

What do a 20th century Midwest American housewife turned author and a 19th century one-eared Dutch Post-Impressionist painter have in common?  Well, they’re the subjects of two solo shows running now on North Bay stages. Napa’s Lucky Penny Productions is presenting Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End for a short run while Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse brings Vincent, a look at Vincent Van Gogh through the eyes of his brother, to their Monroe Stage.

Erma Bombeck turned her musings about life as a housewife and mother into a thrice weekly, nationally syndicated newspaper column that in its heyday ran in over 900 newspapers and into books like The Grass Is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.  Sisters Allison and Margaret Engel have taken Bombeck’s bon mots and turned them into a stage show.

Jill Wagoner as Erma Bombeck

The play follows Bombeck from her difficult childhood through her college years to building a family and achieving fame and fortune as a commentator. Much of the play’s dialogue is pulled directly from Bombeck’s writing.

Barry Martin directs Jill Wagoner in the short 65-minute production which is a good, though somewhat static trip down memory lane for those familiar with Bombeck’s work.

***

Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy spent a good deal of the time between his television and film careers touring in Vincent, his adaptation of a play based on letters written between brothers Vincent and Theo Van Gogh. It’s a tale of sibling love through adversity played out against a backdrop of magnificent art. 

Jean-Michel Richaud plays Theo, desperate to bring some meaning to the circumstances of his brother’s death and appreciation for his life. He shares letters they wrote to each other as Vincent’s work is projected on large screens behind a simple set of a table and some chairs. The self-portraits are particularly evocative when paired with Van Gogh’s written thoughts.

Jean-Michel Richaud as Theo Van Gogh

Richaud’s passion for the piece and the brothers’ love for each other comes through and grips the audience for the show’s 75-minute running time, only dissipated by an incongruous choice of music with which to end the show.

You needn’t be an art connoisseur to appreciate the work being done here.

’Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End’ runs through Oct. 31 at the Lucky Penny Community Arts Center, 1758 Industrial Way, Napa. Thurs-Sat, 7pm; Sun, 2pm. $25–$42. 707.266.6305. luckypennynapa.com

‘Vincent’ runs through Nov. 14 on the Monroe Stage at 6th Street Playhouse. 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Fri & Sat, 7:30pm; Sat & Sun, 2pm. $23-$34. Also available for streaming.  707.523.4185. 6thstreeetplayhouse.com

Proof of vaccination and masking are required to attend.

Photos courtesy of Lucky Penny Productions & 6th Street Playhouse

These reviews originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian.

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