Friendship, faith at heart of Millibo Art Theatre's 'Heroines of Central Ohio'

By Jen Mulson Updated: April 17, 2017 at 2:03 pm • Published: April 12, 2017 0

By Millibo Art Theatre, opens Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through April 30, MAT, 1626 S. Tejon St., $25, $18 Thursdays; 465-6321, themat.org.

As one might imagine, there's plenty of drama to be had at a meeting of the executive board of Central Ohio's Romance Authors of America.

Beloved treasurer Yvette "Evie" St. James has embezzled the chapter's treasury and the members must decide what to do about their longtime friend's shocking act of lawlessness. Do they move forward and press charges or forgive and forget?

Playwright Chris Shaw Swanson's "The Heroines of Central Ohio" opens Thursday at Millibo Art Theatre.

As each member of the romance writers board mulls over the big decision, they flash back to when they first met Yvette and then travel into their romance novel.

"It's a very funny, poignant, lovely journey," said director and MAT co-founder Birgitta De Pree. "It's really about friendships. At the core of it is how do you maintain a friendship?"

Ever since 2006, the MAT has spent the spring months offering audiences the Six Women Playwriting Festival. This year they nixed the festival of short plays for one full-length show written by a female playwright with a primarily all-female cast that includes Hannah Rockey, Lynne Hastings, Lynne Jacobs, Marisa Hebert, Ashley Crockett, Anna Faye Hunter, Amy Brooks and Max Ferguson.

"We've done the short plays - they'd had their time," De Pree said. "I felt like let's do a different kind of format. Let's explore a woman's voice in a different way."

The Ohio-based Swanson is no stranger to the MAT. She's a two-time Six Women Playwriting Festival winner; her script "Out From Under with Mary" was deemed the best play of the festival's decade-long run.

De Pree believes there's something powerful and attractive about a romance novel and its requisite fairy tale ending.

"You can see how these women live vicariously through their novels in a way that they aren't doing in real life," she said. "One of the characters does a monologue telling them to believe in the romantic ideal, that there's power in that. She asks them to not accuse this woman and choose grace. The play dances around all these issues very beautifully."

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

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