Buntport Theater's new musical, Seal. Stamp. Send. Bang., has deep roots in Colorado Springs.
All six of the ensemble's members Erin Rollman, Erik Edborg, Brian Colonna, Hannah Duggan, Evan Weissman and Samantha Schmitz graduated from Colorado College between 1996 and 2001. They opened their central Denver theater in 2001, and since then have written, performed and produced 25 original plays and 100 episodes of their now-retired live sitcoms, Magnets on the Fridge and Starship Troy.
They had dabbled with karaoke versions of songs in a few productions (see: Kafka on Ice), but the troupe had never written and performed a true musical. It was a chance meeting about a year ago that compelled them to make the jump: The group taught a class for CC's drama department, and through that met senior Adam Stone, a theater major who composes what he calls "synth-pop."
"Adam," says Weissman, "can write music in a way in a speed and with a sensibility that we're used to."
(For a group who used to write one 45-minute sitcom episode every other week for six months out of the year, that means really fast.)
Of course, the performers admit in the show's program that none of them are trained singers or musicians. And after seeing a performance, I'd say none are likely to win American Idol, though perhaps a few (Weissman and Duggan, in particular) could make it to the Hollywood round.
Buntport is known in Denver for its amazing, low-budget, modular sets and creative costumes, and Seal carries on that tradition. The set features four large boxes on wheels. House fronts, with doors and mailboxes, decorate one side of each box. When the boxes are wheeled around by a cast member, four different mini-sets appear: a mail truck, a living room, the postal service's dead letter office and a kitchen. Simple touches, such as a beaded seat cover in the truck and a garden statue outside one of the homes, provide charm.
Take the set, and add to it a dysfunctional love triangle and familial grudge that revolve around unaddressed mail and the post office; original songs like "Bird Dirt Angel," "Dead Letter Lover" and "My Bomb and I"; and actors who, according to Weissman, "like to rock out a little," and you've got the promise of a winner.
Buntport's ultimate strength, though, is in its acting. The six members know exactly what and when to play up or down. Sometimes, you want to laugh, other times you want to cry, and other times you want to cry because you're laughing so hard. When Pete (played by Weissman) sings about Susan (Rollman), "I know you're fragile, I'd handle you with care / Package you with peanuts and bubble wrap your hair," you can't help but feel for him.
It must be said, though, while Seal's concept is clever and its music hum-worthy, its ending can leave you wondering, "What just happened?" Perhaps there is heavy analysis to be found in its conclusion, but at first blush it feels more like Buntport traded a satisfying resolution for a low-budget (though cool) special effect.
Still, all in all, if you're looking for a night of inspired zaniness, you'll get it, as Stevie Wonder might say, "Signed. Sealed. Delivered."