Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

If you’re expecting a cosy drawing-room comedy about an aging female relative then you have clearly not read the publicity and are in for a big surprise. There is no aunt Sally. Instead, you’re treated to seventy minutes of minimalism, mathematics, mobile phones and much, much more.

Precisely choreographed as though abiding by mathematical principles itself

In case you are still not quite there, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is inspired by the mnemonic for solving equations:Subtract, Add, Divide, Multiply, Exponent, Parentheses; except to make things just a little more complicated it’s in reverse, because that’s the way events pan out. The basis of the plot is actually a very simple equation: female high school maths teacher + fifteen year-old male student = illicit affair. This being the age of technology, the story is told not through his aunt but from the viewpoint of his mobile phone, which has a voice of its own. It also sees all, hears all and therefore knows all, so is not to be messed with. While it may be very touchy it is not at all feely: it stands alone in its own world without any sense of the complex emotions that embroil family and friends. Inevitably, there are also twist and turns along the way for both the phone and the people involved.

The white-hot heat of the technological revolution that dominates this play is evident from the outset. The stage is a large black block with just a narrow walk-around. In the middle of the raised performing area is a white rectangular pit with a proportionate flat lighting panel above it that intensifies the whiteness. There is also a female mandolin player on a white swing to the side of the stage accompanying and interpreting events musically. On entering, the set’s wow factor immediately suggests that exciting things are ahead.

One Year Lease Theater Company does not disappoint is this fast-paced ensemble production of Kevin Armento’s premier work. Delivering the complex text the cast act as chorus and characters in an almost ancient Greek theatre style. Much of the prose sounds more like choral verse, with words and phrases repeated in unison to lend emphasis to the dialogue. The text is further enhanced by the physicality of the production, which rarely keeps still and is precisely choreographed as though abiding by mathematical principles itself.

This play and production takes the classic coming-of-age story to a new level. It suggests that technology might be taking something away from us and that we need to add feelings and emotions to provide context, that our lives cannot be divided into neat compartments, that we have to look to each other time and time again, that what you put into life is what will make it grow and that you can’t live your life in brackets.

The unrelenting pace and verbal bombardment of this show might be a bit much for dear aunt Sally, but there is a plenty of material here to keep the rest of the family entertained.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Follow an illicit affair between a student and his teacher from the viewpoint of his mobile phone in a breakneck journey from pockets to purses. A daring, sexy, suspenseful and utterly unique coming of age story. One Year Lease Theater Company's production of Kevin Armento’s new play thrilled audiences in its 2015 world premiere Off Broadway at New York’s 59E59 Theaters. ‘A supple, fast-paced, highly physical production’ (New York Times, Critics Pick). ‘A gleaming portrait of our collective contemporary existence’ (AmericanTheaterWeb.com). ‘Screams of novelty’ (HuffingtonPost.com).