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Post Office

David Jenkins' homey play about life in a small Illinois town packs both surprising depth and humor.

By New York City
Anney Giobbe & David Gelles
in Post Office
(© Adam Koplan)
Anney Giobbe & David Gelles
in Post Office
(© Adam Koplan)
A seemingly modest little slice-of-life story, David Jenkins' Post Office, being presented by Human Animals at the New Ohio Theatre, packs both surprising depth and plenty of humor.

Nineteen-year-old James (David Gelles) has embarked on a self-administered gap year and has signed on as a raw recruit at his hometown post office in Little Neck, Illinois, reasoning that he'd better bide his time before considering college, because he's "kind of trying to live a life without debt."

At the outset of his assignment, the sensible, rather docile James rarely bristles under the near-messianic tutelage of his sixty-something co-worker, Denny (Eric Hoffmann), who sees his job as a sacred calling. Like a master in a medieval guild, Denny is intent on training this acolyte right, while refusing to acknowledge that the very tradition he's passing along just might be headed for obsolescence.

Rabidly defending the worth of his work, Denny goes so far as to extol mail-delivery service as the very embodiment of democracy, and vaguely bemused by Denny's perorations, and sensitive to the insecurity underlying the old man's bluster, James seems happy enough to pay obeisance, applying ego-strokes as needed.

He's also rather preoccupied, having succumbed to the enticements of Victoria (Anney Giobbe), a lonely, fortyish woman on his new route. Victoria's not a full-blown Blanche DuBois (not yet anyway), but she has that aura of opportunities missed and loose ends threatening to drag her under. Mail comes, addressed to Victoria's husband, but he's nowhere to be seen.

I rather wish ballroom dancing weren't among the skills that Victoria tries to impart to her young paramour -- it seems overly retro -- but it's probably as good a stand-in as any for the other moves she's no doubt helping James to finesse.

Josie Whittlesey's smooth, subtle direction proves invaluable, as does the work of Gelles, who is a superbly naturalistic actor. As Victoria, Giobbe is a little off (perhaps intentionally), and Hoffman fulminates brilliantly during Denny's rants.

Ultimately, this homey little play -- in which disparate scenes start to intersect seamlessly -- evolves into a love story of quite another stripe. In fact, at heart, it's a valentine of sorts. Jenkins has a soft spot for these well-intentioned oddballs, and a gentle humanism pervades his work that's delightful to watch.


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