O.M.A.G.E.E. (The Optimal Mind Association for Getting Everything Excellent)

O.M.A.G.E.E., featuring Jessica Zerlina Leave, is a one-woman show portrayed by a very competent performer who shifts between three different characters.

Each displays a certain aspect of apparently different cults – Linda, who helms the cult LifeLife (perhaps a sort of N.X.I.V.M. amalgam); Taylor, who starts out in an all-vegan Egyptian worshipping cult and then forms her own (the titular O.M.A.G.E.E.) and Lilly, a ten-year-old girl in a sort of school-cult situation.

If you’re confused by this explanation, you’re not the only one. The play looks at various aspects of cultishness – shades of Warren Jeffers, shades of Scientology, shades of Exclusive Brethren – and most of the show is presented with a tongue-in-cheek, humorous style. It does this with these three separate characters, but the narratives don’t seem to interweave – the cults seem to be separate, and that’s a little baffling.

Jessica Zerlina Leafe, the performer and writer, does a good job portraying the different characters, although it took me some moments to realise Lilly was different to Taylor. The show is a comedy, but unfortunately, most of the jokes didn’t land for me. Having said that, there were some good chuckles in the audience and a few punters who laughed all the way through.

O.M.A.G.E.E. (The Optimal Mind Association for Getting Everything Excellent)

It’s a very difficult subject matter to make light of, and that was where the play could have worked better. An early scene where Lilly, the ten-year-old, has some strange things done to her by a senior man is played for laughs but doesn’t really come across as funny to me. The intention is clear but read in a certain way; it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

The text could do with a trim-down – because the characters are all brainwashed in various ways, often they are spouting a kind of word salad. Sometimes, this text is nicely written and clever, but it takes effort to focus at other times.

The beginning was the most promising aspect of the show, and I want to see further development of the Linda character and a more interactive audience experience. It would be interesting to see Linda gradually convince the whole audience to join her cult – but unfortunately, Linda wasn’t super present in the latter parts of the show.

The venue is lovely and spacious, but the sound bleed from the bar next to the stage must be very difficult to perform with, so massive props to Jessica for pushing through that and staying on course.

Overall, the show has a lot of promise, and Jessica is a strong performer and a funny, unique writer. I’d suggest another round of development and performance to seek out what’s working and throw away what isn’t.

This review also appears on It’s On The House, and check out more reviews at Dark Stories Theatre to see what else is on in your town.

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