Buntport goes postal with Seal. Stamp. Send. Bang.
Susan, a mailwoman played by Erin Rollman, finds little meaning in her profession — but a lot of significance in the splat of birdshit on her windshield. Lovingly framing it with her fingers, she declares the thing "a bird poop angel" and bursts into a rapturous, American Idol-style song of celebration. Pete loves Susan and has a mystical belief in the mail — the way it weaves through space, binding disparate people together. He's given to popping unaddressed postcards into the mailbox because he knows they'll pass through Susan's hands, and surely she'll eventually realize they're meant for her. Except that ethical Susan, realizing no such thing, simply follows postal regulations, depositing the cards unread at the dead-letter office — where lonely, eccentric Jason believes they represent a set of cryptic messages from Susan to him.
Very sweet so far, eh? But the plot darkens, and madness, torture and bombing come into play. Not to mention Tennyson quotations, Michael Landon, a bucolic lake, family feuds, eggs shaped into logs and spontaneous combustion.
Seal. Stamp. Send. Bang. is Buntport's first real musical. Although the company transformed Shakespeare's Coriolanus into a musical some years ago, that just set new lyrics to existing tunes. For this original play, the Buntporters enlisted local composer Adam Stone, and he's come up with a feast of synth-pop songs: tinkly, bright melodies; big-bodied solos; hilarious patter. Although the production emphasizes the artificiality of the form — at intervals, each actor carefully centers him or herself in the spotlight — it isn't a straightforward parody. Nor is it an homage. This is just what happens when Buntport applies its unique approach and set of sensibilities to a musical.
The songs are amazingly clever and funny, so funny that every one was punctuated by hoots and snuffles of irrepressible audience laughter. Some Buntporters can sing better than others, but that's not really relevant, because they all can perform. So you get Erik Edborg as Jason singing a passionate ode to love, his full-hearted ecstasy pinched into rickety spasms by his rigid, repressed body, jabbing his hands at the air — first the right, then the left — in a vain attempt at jazziness and cool; Hannah Duggan offering an ode called "My Bomb and I" from within a large, sealed box that dances and jiggles; Evan Weissman as the nerdy egg-tamperer giving his philosophy of life (which boils down to "anything that can happen will happen"), crouched on a chair and kicking his legs to the side like a demented chorine; Brian Colonna and Edborg joining for a fiendishly funny torture duet. (Satiric though this scene is, it made me think about how deeply torture has insinuated its way into popular culture, from England's hip Torchwood to recent episodes of the otherwise amiable drama Chuck; Jack Bauer has glamorized and justified the practice to such an extent that 24 has influenced the practice of U.S. interrogators. But Buntport, of course, isn't suggesting that its torturing postal inspector is anything but a maniac.)
The actors' brilliance doesn't stop when the singing does. They're terrific with the dialogue, too, sending non sequiturs, oddball observations, ingenious connections and misconnections fizzing and fountaining through the air like jugglers' balls — "A man should fish when he's got ten toes"; "The possible is inevitable"; "People explode" — and displaying absolute conviction and deadly perfect timing at every turn. You simply have to see Hannah Duggan's glowering, nasally challenged Daphne.
Bottom line: Seal. Stamp. Send. Bang. had me laughing from beginning to end. I was sorry when it ended after a mere hour or so, and I left the theater feeling as if I'd somehow inhaled a cloud of multi-colored helium.
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