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Prize-winning play coming to Towngate

December 9, 2010
The Herald-Star

WHEELING - The battle of the sexes comedy "Harry Quits the Rat Race," the Oglebay Institute 2010-11 National Playwriting Contest winner, be will staged at Towngate Theatre Friday through Sunday and Dec. 16-18 at Towngate Theatre.

Written by M. Murphy Martell and directed by John Reilly, "Harry Quits the Rat Race" is set in Chicago, where Harry wants to quit his high paying advertising job, but his three wives have no intention of letting him put them in the poor house. They take him to court, but Harry's very clever attorney finds a loophole that routs them. However, Harry married some remarkable women who, as it turns out, get the last word and the last laugh.

For more than 30 years, Wheeling theater legend and the founder of the Towngate National Playwriting Contest, Hal O'Leary, has directed the production of the winning script. This year, he passes the torch to Reilly.

Article Photos

Rich Ivan, Arlene Merryman, Jill Predragovich and Gretchen Schneider star in the battle of the sexes comedy “Harry Quits the Rat Race,” the 2010-11 Oglebay Institute National Playwriting Contest winner, which will be staged Friday through Sunday and Dec. 16-18 at Towngate Theatre, Wheeling. — Contributed

Reilly first began working with Oglebay Institute and Towngate productions in 1980. He was cast in "The Lion in Winter" by none other than O'Leary. Reilly described this experience as "the first of many enjoyable ones."

Reilly also has performed in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Odd Couple" and "The Rainmaker," as well as directing several Parcel Players' productions. He is a retired theater professor from West Liberty University.

"I knew John would be eminently qualified to direct the contest play," said Kate Crosbie, director of performing arts at Oglebay Institute. "Also, he has a fondness for Towngate, Hal and the playwriting contest, so I knew it would be a great match."

Reilly said he is honored to direct the playwriting contest production, following in the footsteps of O'Leary, who he calls "a friend, colleague and mentor."

Cast members for "Harry Quits the Rat Race" include: Rich Ivan, Arlene Merryman, Jill Predragovich, Gretchen Schneider, Shawn Carder and Patrick Viola.

Although this is the first time the play has received a full production, it has been seen through readings and showcase performances, and the playwright M. Murphy Martell said "audiences have found it very funny and yet believably human."

Martell has written plays that have been presented in the West End, London; and off-Broadway, New York; Hollywood; and Staten Island, N.Y. Writing awards include a National Endowment for the Arts grant for playwriting; and a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council grant to adapt and present Shakespeare outdoors and two Staten Island Arts Council grants for adapting classic books "The Water Babies" and "Little Lord Fauntleroy" into musicals.

Oglebay Institute's National Playwriting Contest began in 1976 and offers a chance for writers to get their work produced. Fostering theater at its roots, the contest is respected throughout the national and international artistic community and offers audiences fresh new theater and a chance to play a part in the very important process of playwriting.

Towngate's curtain is at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Curtain time also is 8 p.m. Dec. 16-18.

For reservations, call (304) 242-7700. For those buying seats at the door, Towngate's box office opens one hour before all shows and can be reached at (304) 233-4257.

Refreshments are available at Towngate Theatre, and parking is curbside or in the nearby Center Wheeling parking garage. Located at 2118 Market St., Towngate is easy to find and just across the street from St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in the historic Centre Market district of Wheeling.

For information on Oglebay Institute, go to

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