Kansas City local playwright, Robert Flaherty Hart makes his Kansas City debut of his play, “Poor Relations” at Olathe Civic Theatre Association (OCTA), in a story that involves family relations, past problems, death, choices, and resolutions.
The play begins with three siblings gathering together for their mother’s funeral and immediately, old pains, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and new information all add up to a mess of dysfunctionality. Secrets and explanations, come to light as the play develops, giving a firm family structure to the siblings who do not understand the depth of problems until they are illuminated.
Throughout the drama, expect many laughs along the way. The chemistry and interaction among the four cast members presents a dynamic effect on the audience. It’s obvious the cast know and trust each other and their scenes together make the audience believe they are watching a real family drama unfold before them.
To help find all the comedy and drama of the piece, director Tina Morrison called on her friendship with playwright Robert Flaherty Hart and engaged him for several “talk-backs” after selected performances so the audience could interact with him and ask any further questions.
“I was supposed to see the debut production at the University of Arkansas,” Morrison said. “Just as some friends and I were arriving in town to see the matinee performance, I got a call from Bob (Hart) telling us that part of the ceiling in the Performing Arts Center had caved in and the performance was canceled. We were devastated. So we decided to read the play aloud in Bob’s apartment. I fell in love with it immediately. Plus, I’ve met Bob’s family and while the play is not strictly autobiographical, the characters were easy for me to recognize.”
The focus on family and relationships make “Poor Relations” a beatifically written piece. The characters are rich, full, and believable. That always helps a play, to have realistic characters giveign realistic dialogue.
“My mother was very ill at the time and passed away during the production of that show,” Hart said. “Issues of family were on my mind, and I began writing Poor Relations in a state of grief and with a simple desire to meet my class deadline! Ultimately, I entered the MFA Playwriting program the following fall and, among other projects, had the opportunity to complete and refine ‘Poor Relations’.”
“Poor Relations” tugs at the heartstrings. The play is funny, dramatic, sentimental, shocking at times, tender at times, yet, the playwright keeps it engrossing for the audience. There is not too much focus on drama without some lighthearted moments to break the drama.
Four top local actors bring the play to life. The cast is: Stasha Case (Karen), David Martin (Jeff), Matt Leonard (Richie), and Michael Juncker (Charlie). The show s staff includes: Tina Morrison (director), DK Evenson (stage manager), Philip Leonard (lighting design), Kate Haugan (properties design), Michael Bunn (sound design), Rick L. Riley (set design), Mickie Riley (set design), Marla Gonzalez (run crew), and Bill Case, Max DeShon, Larry Goodman, Ken Schmidt and Deb Hodge (set construction).
“Good Relations” is a wonderful play, but contains much adult language. It not suited for elementary students. Middle and high schoolers already know all the profanities and will not be shocked. The show comes with the highest recommendations to view in it’s last two weekends of the run.
Tickets and more information can be found on the OCTA website.
About Olathe Civic Theatre Association
Olathe Civic Theatre Association is a 501c3 organization producing theatre in Olathe since 1974. Performing in the Buddy Rogers Family Playhouse, OCTA produces five high-quality, engaging, and thought-provoking theatre productions a year. Through the generosity of volunteers, season ticket holders, donors, and the City of Olathe, OCTA has grown into one of the most progressive community theaters in the Kansas City metropolitan area.