Jewel Box Theatre's dark comedy 37 Postcards gives sharp takes on family and loss 

click to enlarge Publicity photo for Jewel Box Theatre's production, "37 Postcards." Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman - Cast members from 37 Postcards. - JIM BECKEL
  • JIM BECKEL
  • Publicity photo for Jewel Box Theatre's production, "37 Postcards." Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman Cast members from 37 Postcards.

You can always go home again, but things might be a little different than how you remembered.

For Avery Sutton in Jewel Box Theatre’s 37 Postcards, this statement rings true in the form of a sinking childhood house and a supposedly resurrected grandmother. Showing Jan. 19-Feb. 12 at the theater, 3700 NW Walker Ave., Michael McKeever’s dark comedy examines a family unit out of sync with time.

Stage director Don Taylor spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about the play’s debut at The Jewel Box, its challenging set design and the unpredictable nature of family.

Living abroad in Europe for eight years, Avery had valid reasons for leaving home in the first place. Escapism motivated his travels.

“Avery’s twin brother passed away before he left for Europe,” Taylor said. “Leaving his hometown was his way of grieving, but his family members have fallen into more unconventional methods of handling loss.”

‘World of delusions’

Turning back time is impossible, but pretending to live in the past proves a viable option for Avery’s mother. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” is taken to the extreme through Mrs. Sutton’s penchant for feigning happiness.

“This woman decides to become the essence of a 1950s American TV show where nothing is wrong and nothing bad could ever happen,” Taylor said.

One fiction Mrs. Sutton constructs is her deceased mother, who isn’t dead at all. She lives in the pantry.

“To shield Mrs. Sutton from reality, the rest of the family has decided it’s best to help her maintain her fantasy world,” Taylor said.

Outside influences destabilize her comfort zone. Throwing a curve ball in her Leave It to Beaver façade, Avery brings home his fiancé he met in Europe. Despite her best efforts to stabilize her delusion, life is about to change for Mrs. Sutton.

“During his time in Europe, Avery sent postcards to his mother. Of course, in her state of oblivion, she neglected to read them. Now everyone has to deal with this extreme lapse in communication,” Taylor said. “The Sutton house is slowly dipping into a sinkhole, which is the first thing audiences will notice, even if some of the characters won’t address it.”

Even in his 20th year at Jewel Box, directing 37 Postcards has stretched Taylor’s abilities.

“Working with actors on a slanted stage has made for rather interesting rehearsals,” he said. “On the positive side, at least the actors don’t have to wear roller skates on this stage.”

Confrontations with reality, family and life underlie the play’s central themes.

“Although the family is dealing with a confusing, sometimes sad situation, the way characters go about living in the present is comedic,” Taylor said. “It’s quirky, but it’s also a touching play at its core.”

Such a duality between the absurd and the sentimental defines playwright Michael McKeever’s brand, which appeals to Taylor as a theater professional and audience member.

“As a director, it’s rare to actually want to sit through an entire performance you’ve had a hand in,” he said.

Tickets are $15-$20. Visit jewelboxtheatre.org or call 405-521-1786.

Print headline: Slanted storytelling, Jewel Box Theatre’s 37 Postcards highlights the unpredictable nature of family and unconventional methods of handling loss.

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