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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Theatre Mon Jun 14 2010

#$%* Hits the Fan in Dog and Pony's Dead Letter Office


Susan Price and John Fenner Mays, photo by John W. Sisson, Jr.

Excuse my language, but there's just no other way to put it: there is some fucked up shit going on in Dog & Pony Theater Company's newest production, Dead Letter Office. This play has everything from ghosts to incest to old fruitcake going on all at once in the dreary basement of a post office in Minnesota.

The play (directed by Dog and Pony's Dieterich Gray) opens with our star, scarred ex-boxer Christian (John Fenner Mays) sleepily descending the staircase into the dead letter office, where he's worked for god knows how long, and has trudged a deep path of habit and monotony, which he's happy with. Happy enough, at least.

Next, we meet Agatha (a.k.a. "Aggie", played by Susan Price), a nauseatingly cheery middle-aged mail lady who's become fond of Christian over the years. She's decided to host a Christmas party this year in an effort to get back in touch with her estranged daughter and show her that she's not such a stick in the mud anymore, and she insists that Christian comes. The fact that she hasn't heard from her daughter in years is likely the reason she feels a connection with Christian-- he's been trying to get a hold of his daughter and ex-wife for a decade to no avail. The letters he writes them everyday end up back on his desk-- returned-- every morning.

In the meantime Christian's hilariously uber-douche boss Rolo (Dog and Pony company member, Joshua Volkers) has hired a saucy 22 year old, Je' T Aime (Kristen Magee) to work in the office with him. Rolo's obviously hired her because he wants to get in her pants but why she's chosen to work in the office is a mystery for the better part of the play.

Basically what happens from there is that all hell breaks loose.

Dead Letter Office is the first thriller I've ever seen performed live, on a stage, and I was impressed with how, well, thrilling it was. The set was perfect-- eerily complete with steam and drippy pipes. I wasn't sure how the nearly 360 degree seating was going to work out but I, for one, didn't feel like I missed anything at all.

The script (written by Philip Dawkins) seemed a little ambitious for such a small production-- the acting at times fell short of the oscar-worthy performances the script seemed to require, but I don't fault the actors for that. Although the best parts were probably the banter between the characters rather than the big, dramatic, a-ha! moments, with a slight suspension of disbelief, the whole production was pretty darn good.

Check out Dead Letter Office for yourself at the DCA storefront theater (66. E. Randolph) through July 18. Performances are Thursdays through Sundays. Click here for details.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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