Theater Review: Funny and fun found at Carpenter Square with ’37 Postcards’
Elizabeth Hurd Published: February 26, 2016 Updated: Feb 26, 2016
Carpenter Square Theatre is presenting the delightful comedy “37 Postcards” by Michael McKeever, a playwright of discerning wit.
The play centers on the return of the prodigal son Avery after a long absence touring Europe. He arrives with his lady love, Gillian, and he is hard-pressed to explain the vagaries of his dysfunctional family to her. In fact, he has a hard time understanding their eccentricities himself. The Suttons, bearing an old and established New England name, enjoy a significant fortune and an apparent carefree approach to life. As in all comedies, the humor is based on tragedy, and the tragedy is only endurable through escape and laughter.
“37 Postcards” is a fun blend of English drawing room comedy and Theatre of the Absurd; a pairing of Noel Coward or Oscar Wilde with Eugene Ionesco. Director Tom Cowley takes advantage of every opportunity McKeever’s play presents.
Ben Hall once again excels in a lovely but slightly skewed set that shows the agonizingly slow slippage of the family home into a sinkhole in the backyard that no one has noticed. Avery has long known that he comes from an eccentric family, but in his absence, the family has degenerated into madness. Lovable and manageable — but madness all the same. The cliché that one can never go home again may be true, because home changes and one must adapt to an unexpected life. Only if Avery is odd enough to embrace the world his parents created in their grief, the grief he ran away from 10 years previously. Hopefully Gillian has the capacity to take this path with him. Since a certain level of dottiness is universal, with “37 Postcards” any member of an audience sees a familiar scenario and laughs with Avery as much as at Avery’s predicament.
Gregory Crall convincingly plays Avery Sutton. His mother, Evelyn, is gracefully played by Zaneen Hotchkiss. Hotchkiss makes Evelyn’s insanity seem quite natural. Aunt Ester is realistically played by Sheryl Martin. Martin displays the uniqueness of Aunt Ester with equanimity, but more importantly, she accepts sister Evelyn as she is and without reservation. Paul Tomlin plays father Stanford P. Sutton as if he were wise. Tomlin creates the somewhat idiotic façade that Sutton displays and lets the audience discover the wisdom behind his golfing. It is important this family has normality. It is important they live in happiness for the time they have together. So what if it’s funny?
Lana Henson plays Nana. Although Evelyn believes Nana is dead, Henson creates a character with a vibrant life behind her and a determination to be very much alive in her future. Karen Garlitz plays Gillian. Gillian loves life, Avery and money. Not necessarily in that order. The question is whether she loves money enough to look beyond Avery’s family and find enough love for a lifetime with credit cards.
Cowley directs these six actors as they create an ensemble that works perfectly with an attitude that allows everyone to be both quirky and beloved. As the run of “37 Postcards” continues, the performances are smoothing and the laughter is soothing. As an ensemble, they have good timing while individual characters have wonderful shining moments.
“37 Postcards” plays at Carpenter Square through March 12, 2016. Carpenter Square is at 800 W Main in downtown Oklahoma City, but parking is quite easy. For tickets and information, visit www.carpentersquare.com or call 405-232-6500. You are invited to spend an evening with the Suttons; they will be preposterous and you will be laughing!