All families are arguably dysfunctional — it’s just a matter of degree, says Glorene Ellis, director of Central Alberta Theatre’s 37 Postcards.
High on the nuttiness scale is the kooky Sutton clan in the dinner theatre production that opens Friday, Nov. 13, at the North Hill Inn.
The comedy by Michael McKeever is about an affluent and eccentric Connecticut family. Ellis said when matriarch Evelyn, her husband Stanford and their son Avery are emotionally upended by the death of a relative, each goes off in a different direction in search of personal solace.
Evelyn escapes into her own off-kilter world that involves much redecorating, Stanford regularly runs off to the golf course, and Avery disappears for years of travelling around Europe (did you catch that they are rich?).
The play begins with Avery finally deciding to return home — and discovering that nothing and no one is as he left them.
Ellis said there’s mayhem and miscommunication in the first act. Amid the wackiness is Avery’s new girlfriend, Gillian, who’s meeting his parents for the first time and regularly being mistaken for the Suttons’ maid, Sheridan. While the folks at the core of 37 Postcards are a more extreme version of some families Ellis knows, she still feels the plot is relatable. “What family isn’t a little dysfunctional?”
This 1998 comedy has been compared to the 1938 film You Can’t Take it With You for being about people who appear to act nonsensically. But by the end of the play, Ellis feels audience members will understand what’s driving the Suttons to behave as they do.
“People will be laughing, and then some will say. ‘Oh. There’s something a little deeper going on here…’”
Ellis is a first-time CAT director, who has years of experience helming community theatre productions in Stettler. Since moving to Red Deer in 2011, she’s acted in a couple of CAT plays and is looking forward to bringing this one to the stage with six actors.
“I hope to bring out the tension between the characters,” said Ellis.
Her cast includes such CAT regulars as Debby Allan, Deb O’Brien, Michael Sutherland and Tara Rorke, as well as relative newcomer Perry Mill and a long-time CAT player Lavila Lang making a stage comeback.
Ellis hopes audience members are entertained by the comedy and bittersweet moments in 37 Postcards — but mostly she hopes they “enjoy the atmosphere of live theatre. That’s why all of us get involved. It’s a passion.”
Tickets are $65 from the Black Knight Ticket Centre. Dinner is served from 6 p.m., show is at 7:30 p.m. (Sunday brunches start at noon, show is at 1:30 p.m.)