Milford ready for 'Neurotic Olympics'
New theater group to stage play on mental illness at Daniel Street nightclub

Staff writer, CT Post

Article Last Updated: 09/20/2008 01:01:19 PM EDT

MILFORD -- Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once complained that there are no second acts in American lives.

Barbara Oleynick is out to prove him wrong.

The city native is an English teacher at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, a playwright and theater producer, a nurse, an inspirational speaker, a novelist and a certified instructor in a technique for treating learning disabilities.

Most of those things Oleynick pursues at the same time, which might explain how she came to title her latest production "The Neurotic Olympics.'' The show begins at open-ended run on Wednesdays and Sundays at the Daniel Street nightclub, and is the first production of the new Milford Theater Works, a repertory company created by Oleynick and her partner Chris Blair.

"This is an audience participation show,'' the dramatist said in an interview last week. "Some members of the audience will be chosen to be an "esteemed colleague'' of our psychiatric experts, and if their patients wins they get their table's bar tab paid.'' The seven-member cast competes in events including the Multiple Personality High Jump and the Psychotropic Medication Relay. But Oleynick said her play, though a comedy, isn't making fun of mental illness.

"I was a victim of child abuse and I spent many years in therapy,'' she said. "I've also been a psychiatric nurse for many years. Mental illnesses can be devastating, not doubt about that.

"But I choose to use my creative tools and creative self to make lemonade from lemons. In the play, the psychiatrists get bored with basic 'couch therapy' and decide to have their patients compete in Olympic-style games,'' the playwright said.

Richard Conine, who owns the nightclub at 21 Daniel Street and the popular Stonebridge Restaurant across from it, said that the goal when he opened the entertainment venue several years ago was to have live theater performances on some nights. "I'm very excited about this and it gives us an opportunity to enter a new phase with Daniel Street,'' Conine said. "We've had comedy there and we're bringing it back, and now we'll have theater too. "This will be good for all of downtown because people like to have dinner before the show and maybe a glass of wine or a cappuccino after.'' Robert Gregory, the city's economic development director and a sometime-actor, agreed that the addition of a professional theater company will boost downtown's offerings.

Milford Theater Works won't compete with the Eastbound Theater, Gregory said, because that city-sponsored community theater group in the Fine Arts Center downtown tends to do more conventional productions.

"The Neurotic Olympics'' will open on Oct. 1 and have performances on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Tickets are $17 each for the cabaret seating and there is a discount for tables of four.

Oleynick is also readying the first Spanish production of her earlier play, "The Miracle of Fatima,'' which will be performed in the Dominican Republic in January. Recently translated into Portuguese, the play will also be performed at Fatima, one of the world's most visited Marian shrines.

Oleynick's 2005 novel "The Time Has Come'' was well received and the local author said she is planning two more books to complete that trilogy.

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