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POSTCARDS FROM UNCLE AL

POSTCARDS FROM UNCLE AL

by Matt Gunther

The Core Theatre

Director - James Hansen Prince
Stage Manager - Penny Gunther
Set Design - Jim Finger
Sound Design - Daron Sneed
Costumes - Jeulet Noyes
Light and Sound Operator - Steven Prince

Cast:
Chris Bourgeois: Fish
Brandon Bradfield Sr.: Arlo
Brenda Christophersen: Christina
Matt Gunther: Nathan
Ibrahim Haifa: Jackson
Nina Haley: Rebecca/Waitress
Regina Mendelblat: Stella
Ken Milota: Alvin/Deputy
Kiera Mullany: Mandy
Edwin Old: State Trooper
Seth Thomas: Benny


Reviewed Performance: 2/2/2018

Reviewed by Jeri Tellez, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Originally written as a screenplay, the story is the dramatization of Matt Gunther's boyhood imagination. This is the second time I have seen one of his works, and I was pleasantly surprised by this drama. The story revolves around brothers Jackson (Ibrahim Haifa) and Benny (Seth Thomas) and the many post cards they receive from a mysterious uncle named Al. When life takes an unexpected turn, Jackson, the older brother, makes an impulsive decision to locate Uncle Al.

As Jackson, Haifa gave a solid performance and stayed true to the character, even when the action seemed to veer slightly off script. He was nurturing to Benny when needed, but a typical hotheaded teenage boy at times. Playing a character younger than himself was no trouble at all, and he did a nice job.

Thomas was superb as the developmentally challenged younger brother, Benny. He was appropriately quiet, clingy, or out of control, as the situation demanded. Thomas gave no indication of struggling with lines, even when rattling off a list of the origins of some 150 post cards. He was the only child in the cast, but held his own with the adults.

Nina Haley was quite believable as Rebecca, the struggling single mother making do the best she could. Her affection toward the boys in spite of her challenges was obvious, and she clearly leaned on Jackson to help care for his younger brother. Haley demonstrated the strength and tenderness required to care for a child with special needs.

Gunther was cast as the typical small town neighbor Nathan, who had obviously known the family for many years. He took it upon himself to be the father figure the boys were missing, and Rebecca was always grateful for the help. As one would expect from someone so familiar with the script, Gunther did a beautiful job portraying the caring family friend.

Kiera Mullany did an outstanding job as neighbor Mandy. She held her own when sharing the stage with Haifa and Thomas, and the three of them had a nice chemistry as longtime friends. Christina, portrayed by Brenda Christophersen, was both stern and caring as her role required, and worked well with Nathan.

The set, while minimal, was well designed. The various areas were clearly defined, and the scene changes were mostly smooth. The props were outstanding, complete with the aforementioned post cards, and real food.

The sound design was the perfect subtle accompaniment to add flavor to the story. There was not one thing that was particularly memorable, but I did notice when sound effects helped to set the scene or provide context. The light design, which was not credited, was nicely done. The isolated focus helped draw the eye to the action, and the flashing colored lights helped to clarify the setting.

Although no fight choreographer was credited, I was impressed at how smoothly the one fight scene flowed. Even though the audience saw no blood during the fight, it was no surprise when a character returned to the stage with a wound and blood on his clothes.

This presentation, at the recently updated Core Theatre, was both touching and entertaining. I recommend making time to see this original, family friendly show.

Postcards from Uncle Al runs through February 25 at The Core Theatre in Richardson.
For more information go to www.thecoretheatre.com. For tickets, call (214) 930-5338.
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