Central Alberta Theatre is exploring the quirky ins and outs of a dysfunctional family via their latest dinner theatre outing, 37 Postcards, which runs through to Dec. 4th at the Quality North Hill Inn.
Directed by Glorene Ellis and written by Michael McKeever, the play explores the inner workings – and outer mayhem – of the Sutton family. Avery Sutton (Perry Mill) has been travelling around Europe for several years and decides to head home with his fiance, Gillian – played wonderfully by the always charming Tara Rorke.
But things just aren’t the same. First of all, his mom Evelyn (Debra O’Brien) seems to be increasingly disconnected from reality. His aunt Ester (Debby Allan) – also a rather eccentric soul – has discovered a shocking means of raking in some cash on the side, and his father Stanford sort of drifts in and out of the goings-on. Stanford, played by the always solid and reliable Michael Sutherland, also has his own personal news to share towards the middle of the play, which adds a touch of melancholy to what otherwise is a quirky and likable comedy.
And then there is Nana – the sharp-tongued (that’s putting it mildly) granny with a penchant for profanity who was mistakenly assumed to have passed on but is very, very much alive. Kudos to the terrific Lavila Lang for her performance – anyone who knows just how sweet and wonderful this lady really is will be very much impressed by her acting chops and in many instances, Lang nabs the biggest laughs of the show.
Ellis has done a masterful job of directing 37 Postcards – it flows along briskly and it’s been a while since I’ve seen a CAT cast gel so well. O’Brien is fantastic as Evelyn – but then again, O’Brien is pretty much terrific in any role she has tackled over the years. She’s funny but she can also nail those subtle tones of vulnerability and pain. Altogether, she turns in a masterful performance as the very fragile Evelyn – you find yourself really feeling for this woman in spite of her apparent refusal to face life as it is.
Allan is also great fun as Aunt Ester. Like O’Brien, Allan always brings so much to every role she’s in. She has such a natural, easy charisma – always fun to watch and always ready with her superb comic timing as well.
And as mentioned earlier, Rorke is great as rattled Gillian, introduced to this most unusual of families. Her and Mill have a strong chemistry as well, which that much more enhances the strength of her performance.
Last but certainly not least, Mill is also really solid as Avery – who on many levels is really at the heart of this story. Mill brings a steady ‘everyman’ feel to his character – he’s earnest, he’s sincere and he really cares about his family – regardless of ways they’ve taken to coping with the darker chapters of life.
All said, 37 Postcards has a nice polished sense of sophistication to it. It’s a really different kind of story, but I mean that in a good way. And again, the power of the cast – who work so well together and bring everything they have to the table in terms of energy, spirit and dedication – lifts it to an even higher place.
For tickets or more information about performance times, call the Black Knight Inn Ticket Centre at 403-755-6626 or visit www.blackknightinn.ca.