Writing for the Moms the World Ignored: “Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End”

Karen MacDonald. My parents have that end table. Photo by Megpix/Meghan Moore

Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End
Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Allison Engel and Margaret Engel
Based on the life and works of Erma Bombeck
Directed by Terry Berliner
Original music by Brett Macias
Filmmaker: Kathy Wittman
Featuring Karen MacDonald

FEB 24-MAR 13, 2022
Simultaneously Live and Streaming
Hall/Lowell Memorial Auditorium
50 East Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
MRT on Facebook 

Approximate run time: 80 minutes, no intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

Lowell, Mass. — Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End is a serviceable, inoffensive one-woman show about humorist Erma Bombeck. Folks who remember Bombeck will enjoy the show. 

People who enjoy the work of Karen MacDonald will also enjoy the show. MacDonald is delightful. Thanks to her work with director Terry Berliner, MacDonald dominates the stage like she lives there.

From the MRT website: “America’s Funniest Mom. Ever. A celebration of humorist Erma Bombeck, At Wit’s End rejoices in the life of a woman considered to be one of America’s favorite moms, who championed the everyday lives of housewives with a daring truth few of her generation were willing to tell.”  

Karen MacDonald vacuuming filthy AstroTurf. Photo by Megpix/Meghan Moore

Bombeck (MacDonald, sparkling as ever) was famous for being funny while being a mom and wife. The men who ran newspapers had never seen that before. In At Wit’s End, we watch her vacuum AstroTurf, wax poetically about parenting, and promote the women’s movement. Bombeck supported the Equal Rights Amendment from inside her kitchen before it was cool. 

The filmed version of At Wit’s End by Kathy Wittman is well-done. Editing captures MacDonald’s good sides from different angles that make sense to the eye. Next to MacDonald’s performance, the editing is the best part of the streamed experience. It feels like a movie one would see in a theater. 

For more on Bombeck, check out her website through the University of Dayton: https://ermabombeckcollection.com/

Her bestsellers include: 
The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank; If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?; Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession; At Wit’s End; and Family – The Ties that Bind. . .and Gag!

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