Ask Aunt Susan – By Allison Channic

May 10, 2012 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Ask Aunt Susan is dark satire, full of charm, wit, and personality. It deals with the idea of technology in our modern day society, and how it’s taking precedence over more personal, face-to-face relationships. Set in the modern day, with a old fashioned film noir feel, the story is about a young man who, with his business partner and his wife, develops a website to help people with their trauma. This seemingly kind act soon spirals out of control as anxiety, greed, and lust takes hold of the characters and the story.

As I sat and watched Ask Aunt Susan, I more than once caught myself thinking, “This is the future of theater”. The innovations seen were subtle, but important. For example, the set was something to marvel at. A large structure was formed out of a bed, a rug, a booth, and many other pieces of furniture “flying” through the air. The figure was larger at the top and spiraled into a small point at the bottom, giving the impression that this cornucopia of furniture was being sucked down into a small hole. Large television screens were scattered in this mess, displaying the titles of each scene with charm. This piece, coupled with images being flashed on the back wall, gave the entire atmosphere an innovative, futuristic feel that I had never seen before.

The story itself was also something of the future. In the past, theater has dealt with bright, cheesy, and sometimes corny issues, but the issues addressed in Ask Aunt Susan were hard, real, and sometimes heartbreakingly poignant. Theater today has grown into these realistic ideas and Ask Aunt Susan strengthens that argument in the best way possible. It exemplifies the point that modern theater can be beautiful in it’s more realistic pieces. The playwright, Seth Bockley, brought these themes to the table in an intelligent satire that brought to life issues of the modern world in a way I had not yet seen.

Though not necessarily revolutionary, the acting in this play was also truly phenomenal, particularly the main character “Aunt Susan” played by Andy Carey. He was lively and sincere and kept my interest throughout the play; not once did I question his authenticity. The entire cast brought this story to life in a fun and unique way, but Carey was a clear standout.  I clearly admire this play, but that is not to say there were not some pieces that needed work. It was clear this play was in development and certain aspects I would change. For instance, there was a long, disturbing dream sequence or hallucination that was not to my taste and particularly confusing. I did not see the purpose or message of it and was greatly perturbed by it. If the intent was simply to inspire the anxiety and confusion that the main character was feeling at that moment, then it was reached, however it was overall unclear to me.

Ultimately, this play is clearly full of potential. As of right now, it has all the pieces of a play that will develop into something truly special. The only thing missing is the refinement that only comes with time. It is a good play, that I know will grow into something great and I look forward to seeing it again in the future.