In a world where technology is ever growing, where computers and smart phones control our lives, with just the click of a button, you can become anyone you want. In the dark comedy, Ask Aunt Susan by Seth Bockley, a young man (Andy Carey) is wheedled by his boss (Steve Pickering) into portraying the role of the fictitious, advice giving, Aunt Susan; who is hiding behind the computer screens of thousands of insecure women. In this tribute to a 1930’s film noir, Aunt Susan goes on a most confusing journey as he questions his own identity and the anonymity of this vast world we call “The Internet.”
As this was a preview still in development, the scenery was nothing fancy… Except for the giant tower of miscellaneous items, such as couches, beds, a yoga mat, televisions. The actors made great use of the few large props they had: A diner booth, a bed, and a couple of chairs. The thing was, this was just perfect. The story didn’t need a fancy backdrop or multiple set changes; the simplicity of the set completely juxtaposed the complexity of the plot and the intricate characters. To add anything more would just be too darn confusing. The play fully utilized different types of lighting effects, which created a beautiful and haunting stage. The use of technology was incredibly smart. Titles of the scenes would appear upon the televisions of the tower and the back wall of the stage; Aunt Susan’s computer screen was projected as well, pulling the audience deeper and deeper into the mind of Aunt Susan. While these projections may have seemed distracting at first, they were completely relevant and necessary in the telling of this story. The costumes were simple: a zip-up sweatshirt for Aunt Susan, a suit for Steve (Aunt Susan’s boss), multiple dresses for his wife slash business partner, Lydia (Jennie Moreau), some skirts for Aunt Susan’s girlfriend, Betty (Brittany Burch), and multiple waitress costumes for Justine Turner – who, fittingly, played multiple waitresses. Everything was simple, everything was to the point, and everything was uncomplicated, that is, except the plot.
Aunt Susan’s character was the most complex of all, you find yourself wondering throughout the play if you like him or not. As the story moves forward, as Aunt Susan’s identity crisis worsens, as www.auntsusan.com grows increasingly popular, Aunt Susan comes to look at himself as a type of savior to all of those insecure women out there; he unconsciously sees himself as a Jesus-like-figure, but wherever there is a Jesus, there is a Judas waiting to take him down.
My first reaction after the actors took their bows, after the lights came up and the clapping died down, was to turn to my neighbor and ask, “Was that good?!” I can tell you with complete certainty that this show will keep you on the edge of your seat, it’s entertaining, interesting, thought provoking, witty, and riveting, but I still don’t know if I would call it “good.” I would say it’s “fantastic,” but I would not say it is “good.” Even though the actors were believable and although Aunt Susan recited beautiful monologues as if pieces of spoken word poetry, at the end of the play, you are trying to grasp what exactly you thought of it. It’s right there, on the edge of your brain, but you just can’t quite reach it.
Ask Aunt Susan was an incredibly confusing yet thought provoking play. It comes full circle while asking enormous questions about today’s technological society. It’s worth your time to see and more than worth your time to dissect and discuss. As to whether it was good, that is for each individual to decide.