Comedy hangs on people acting strangely: Review

“I just wish you all were a little more normal,” disoriented Avery tells his bizarre relatives in Central Alberta Theatre’s 37 Postcards. Whoa, Nelly! You can say that again.

“I just wish you all were a little more normal,” disoriented Avery tells his bizarre relatives in Central Alberta Theatre’s 37 Postcards.

Whoa, Nelly! You can say that again.

With his Lazarus-like grandma apparently back from the dead, his mother’s head orbiting the clouds, and his dad hitting the links day and night (he has glow-in-the-dark golf balls), Avery returns home only to find it’s become “a well-appointed mad house.”

This eccentric comedy by Michael McKeever, presented as a dinner theatre at Red Deer’s Quality Inn North Hill, is reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day — except it isn’t the same day that plays over and over again

In this script, it’s the same nonsensical interactions between characters that the audience keeps witnessing.

After spending eight years away in Europe, Avery (Perry Mill) brings his fiancée home to meet the folks and discovers that the Sutton family puts the ‘diss’ in dysfunctional.

Hostile Nana (she’s alive!) keeps calling his fiancée Gillian (played by Tara Rorke) a “two-bit whore.” His mother, Evelyn keeps mistaking her for the missing maid, Sheridan — while his father, Stanford, can’t get Gillian’s name straight (Is it Juliet? Justine? Julia?)

Wacky Aunt Esther unaccountably keeps asking his fiancée to repeat the word for a certain sex act.

On top of everything, Avery discovers the family mansion is sinking — not that anyone else has noticed …

37 Postcards, like the 1930s play You Can’t Take It With You, hangs on people acting strangely. How funny you think this is depends on your predilection — or patience — for peculiar behaviour.

Somehow the oddball Suttons managed to win the audience over during Thursday’s preview performance, due in no small part to their cluelessly unflappable richy-rich personas. Think Lovey and Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island crossed with the Royal Tenenbaums.

At one point, Evelyn, played as a sweet ditz by Debra O’Brien, announces that the society folks are throwing a homeless benefit. When it’s questioned whether there are homeless people in the affluent Connecticut town, Evelyn ebulliently responds, “It’s a benefit to keep the homeless out of Darien!”

Later, after Evelyn unaccountably reams out Gillian for not performing the maid’s duties, well-meaning blow-hard Stanford P. Sutton (played by Michael Sutherland) explains to Avery, “There’s nothing like an unwaxed kitchen floor to get your mother’s blood boiling!”

Stick with this play long enough and all the question marks surrounding the first act will be duly explained — more or less — in the second act, which takes a turn into more sombre territory.

But the outstanding cast maintains the right sense of loopiness and heightened reality throughout. As a result, this comedy, directed by Glorene Ellis, never sinks into the maudlin — as it easily could have otherwise.

Although pacing could be tightened in some scenes, 37 Postcards generally zips along, drawing viewers along into the bizzaro, platinum-plated world of the Sutton clan.

Special kudos go to Lavila Lang— a CAT member since 1970 — who makes her acting comeback as noxious Nana, and Debby Allan as Aunt Ester who, as we find out, is performing an invaluable service for Darien’s octogenarians.

Four-footed furry actor Teddy Forhan is also a natural as family pet Skippy.

This play runs to Dec. 4.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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