Ask Aunt Susan – By Jordan Hurst

May 21, 2012 in Cindy Bandle Young Critics by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Ask Aunt Susan by Seth Bockley, a comedy
Thursday 17th, 2011 at the Goodman Theatre

Ask Aunt Susan is play about a fictional self help character created by a computer engineer as a joke. Neither of them expected her to take of like she did. The play follows Aunt Susan, Steve the boss, and Steve’s wife Lydia as they all try to keep Aunt Susan alive. The man behind Aunt Susan goes through many changes as the website expands. The self help site run by one man soon becomes a billion dollar company run by many “Aunt Susans”. The play keeps you laughing with the dysfunctional relationship between Lydia and Steve and the paranoid obstacles that the true Aunt Susan faces.

The stage at first sight gives you no clue to what the play is about. There is a sculpture like tower in the middle of the stage that immediately catches your attention. The sculpture is composed of many things an upside down bed, a twisted carpet, a crooked chair and a set of Televisions. As the play begins the televisions are used to portray the technological importance in the play. The screen shows letters to Aunt Susan and scene titles. As a whole the scenery and lighting were simple but kept my attention. Speaking of attention grabbers the actors kept you focused on the stage whether they were sitting in a diner or lying intimately in bed.

The actors helped orchestrate this hilarious play. I don’t know how any of the actors kept a straight face. The play was dripping with witty lines and funny situations. This comedy came not only from the writing but the actors who were completely convincing in their roles. Justine Turner played 3 different roles and if it had not been for the playbill you wouldn’t have known. She started as a sweet diner waitress in the first scene, but she did a complete 180 when she showed up as Cleo, an almost emo, easy bartender in a short skirt and fishnet stockings.

The play was directed by Joanie Schultz and she did a great job. The stage was arranged so that I was focused on the scene and not what was going on elsewhere. There was nothing too distracting the main piece in the center of the stage gave the stage life and kept it balanced. The only thing is I wish I could have known the true identity of Aunt Susan, but I guess that is part of the mystery of the play.