Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: Meet the Sutherbys

By Michael Block

Sometimes all we need is a goofy comedy to wash away the woes of the world. In Kelly Barrett-Gibson’s The Sutherby Triplets, a day in the life of a has-been television star takes center stage as the Sutherby family reunites for a whacky weekend. As a silly inciting incident, mother Anne Sutherby lies to her triplets to get them to spend a weekend home where antics, hijinks, and a lot of overblown situations pervade the air. So why is the family all here? Well, the predictable punch line is Anne is trying to get her family to star on a reality TV program. The comedy of the show is about an overly-affected show biz family. But there’s something missing. And that may be due to the nature of the structure. It’s all about the lead up. Is it possible that perhaps the play is more plausible, and the antics are more rewarding if the play begins with a camera crew following the family where everyone is performing for the camera? As it stands now, the ridiculous factor is off the charts and much of the plot is dismissed. There is no reason for these people to be as outlandish as they are. If there is a reason, it gives more weight. Though it’s minimal, setting the play in 1997 doesn’t quite work as the reality television trend we know now didn’t really start yet. 2000 was the debut of "Survivor". A couple years later "The Osbournes" took over our television screens. There really wasn’t a defining reason for the year so giving it a more modern spin would be more rewarding as a commentary of today. Additionally with so many characters to take care of, it was hard to track individual story arcs and their overall purpose to the story. As it stands now, Tim and part of his arc could be removed and there is still the same outcome.
Taking on the role of director as well, Barrett-Gibson was the sole proprietor of comedy. When some of her jokes didn’t land, the momentum fell flat. With a sitcom sensibility, the overall pacing of the play needed to move much faster. When the jokes are there, they can’t land at the speed at which it’s being played. The colors and props used to create the world of The Sutherby Triplets was bright and child-like. And it worked. The angels at which the set was placed were nice but caused some staging snafus with limited playing space.
To plainly state, The Sutherby Triplets featured some whacky characters that are somehow justified through the nature of the family. Starting with the titular characters, Melissa Patterson, Anna Wallace-Deering, and Rich Wisneski as Sammie, Sally, and Susie respectively played well off of one another. We learned just enough about their rivalry to justify their childish behavior. The most well-rounded, natural actor in the bunch was James Oblak as Tyler, one of the sister’s gay boy toys. Oblak had an ease about him that allowed the comedy to flow smoothly.
The Sutherby Triplets is a fun premise with old-fashioned charm. It fits the nostalgia-seeking demographic. But there is room to improve to make this play feel of the times.