MRT Kicks Off New Year with Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End

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Karen MacDonaldAmerica’s Funniest Mom. Ever. Featuring Karen MacDonald

LOWELL, MA – Gales of laughter will boost spirits in Lowell this winter when Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) celebrates America’s funniest Mom ever with Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End by Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, featuring Karen MacDonald, from January 19 to February 6, according to Artistic Director Courtney Sale and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas.

Terry Berliner, MRT’s former Interim Artistic Director, will direct.

For At Wit’s End, the company will offer one socially distanced performance – reducing its seating capacity from 279 to 86 – at 7 p.m. Tuesday, February 1. For tickets, contact the Enterprise Bank Box Office at 978-654-4678 or visit www.mrt.orgMRT’s COVID-19 policy requires proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, as well as the wearing of a mask, until further notice. For full COVID-19 details, visit

“Erma’s wit and wisdom shine today as much as they did 40 years ago. She offers a relevant and refreshing perspective on motherhood and the underrated labor of home life. We are delighted to start the New Year with the big laughs, big brain, and big heart of Erma Bombeck,” said Sale, the Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director at MRT.

Bombeck championed the everyday lives of housewives with a daring truth few of her generation were willing to tell. Born in 1927, she sits alongside Garrison Keillor and David Sedaris as one of the great humorists of the 1900s. Bombeck started her newspaper column in 1964, published her first book in 1976, and continued writing until just before her death in 1996. She fiercely believed the women’s movement needed to expand to include the voices of stay-at-home mothers, and she worked tirelessly for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Her most famous quotes include, “He who laughs . . . lasts,” and “Housework, if done properly, can cause brain damage.” Her bestselling books include The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

Berliner, a director, choreographer, and dramaturg with more than 25 years’ experience in New York, served as Interim Artistic Director at MRT between 2018 and 2020. Her Broadway credits as an assistant/resident director include The Lion King, Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, and The Sound of Music.  Twin sisters Allison Engel and Margaret Engel, who primarily work as reporters, turned to writing plays to honor great female journalists, including Bombeck and Molly Ivins (Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins).

Karen MacDonald, who is presently featured in the video on demand recording of MRT’s world premiere comedy The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge, also appeared here in Home of the Brave; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?; and The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead.

The creative team also includes Daniel Zimmerman, Scenic Designer (Kill Floor at Lincoln Center, Suicide Incorporated at Roundabout Theatre Company); Teresa Snider Stein, Costume Designer (I’m Not Rappaport and The Young Man from Atlanta on Broadway); Joel Shier, Lighting Designer (Oklahoma!, Mean Girls, King Charles III on Broadway); and Scott Stauffer, Sound Designer (A Free Man of Color, Contact, Marie Christine on Broadway). Composer Brett Macias of The New Jersey Performing Arts Center will create original music. Maegan A. Conroy (The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge and Until the Flood at MRT) will serve as Stage Manager; Xindi Xu, Assistant Costume Designer; and Lindsey Walko, Production Assistant.

After At Wit’s End, the 2021-22 Subscription Series will continue with the concert Back Together Again: The Music of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, March 30-April 17, featuring Christina Acosta Robinson and Ken Robinson and the East Coast premiere of Best Summer Ever, written and performed by Kevin Kling, May 4-22. In addition, MRT will present a special, non-subscription musical event: Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, February 23-March 13.

For tickets, contact the Enterprise Bank Box Office at 978-654-4678 or visit Tickets for Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End start at $21 with three-show subscriptions starting at $55. MRT will offer its signature MRTLE special, two tickets for $30 for many performances. All ticket specials are detailed at


Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) celebrates 42 years this season as the Merrimack Valley’s professional theatre. With a steadfast commitment to new plays, MRT normally produces seven works, including several premieres, in the 279-seat Nancy L. Donahue Theatre at Liberty Hall.

Under the leadership of the Nancy L. Donahue Artistic Director Courtney Sale and Executive Director Bonnie J. Butkas, MRT strives to fulfill its mission to “create remarkable new and contemporary plays that bring joy to our art form while engaging, entertaining and enriching our community.” The non-profit company guarantees that shows are accessible to audiences of all incomes; partners with businesses and other non-profits to fully engage the community; and contributes to the economic vitality of Lowell by attracting diverse audiences from throughout the region.

Recent acclaimed productions include The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley and Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, the two bestselling productions in MRT’s history; former Artistic Director Sean Daniels’ autobiographical play, The White Chip, which played Off-Broadway this past October; I and You (Off-Broadway transfer) and Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson, the most produced playwright in America; Women in Jeopardy! and the world premiere of Slow Food by Wendy MacLeod; KNYUM by Cambodian playwright and actor Vichet Chum; and The Lion, singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer’s award-winning musical memoir, which launched its national tour from MRT in August 2015, following critically acclaimed runs in New York and London.

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