by Sheli Ellsworth
The Ojai Art Center Theater is performing the original play Bless Your Heart through September 29 with Friday and Saturday night performances at 7:30 PM and Sunday matinees at 2 PM.
The play Ojai Art Center’s own artistic director, Emmy winner Richard Camp wrote Bless Your Heart which explores the impact of religion, education and science in modern culture. Camp describes it as “a play about evolution and faith with a juicy dollop of Elvis Presley fandom . . .”
Set in 1998 North Carolina, a deeply religious family prepares for the wedding of 17 year old John David played by Chance Kelejian to the ditzy 18 year old preacher’s daughter played by KiSea Katikka. The festivities are dampened when John David’s stubborn mother, Martha—played by Susan Kelejian—refuses to be involved in the nuptials. After John David’s brother, Thomas—portrayed by David Nelson Taylor—arrives, the family’s dynamic goes into further free fall. The educated Thomas brings his liberal, science-based ideas into the already turbulent situation and when John David’s estranged preacher father—JD played by veteran actor Michael Holden—arrives, things go from bad to worse.
Fortunately, Martha’s sister—brilliantly portrayed by true southern belle Julie Denny Hamann— keeps the laughs on track throughout the whole debacle.
Camp took on a controversial topic and made it fun and watchable. The acting is spirited and engaging; for anyone interested in Darwinism, God, or the matrimony of the two.
The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery Street in Ojai. It opens 45 minutes before each show. Go to www.ojaiact.org for tickets. Prices are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and Art Center members, and $10 for those under 25. If you have questions, please call (805) 640-8797.