Posts Tagged ‘contraband theatre’

See You In a Minute
by Jacob Juntunen
Directed by Ellie Schwetye
Contraband Theatre
October 14, 2023

Joseph Garner, Ricki Franklin
Photo by Phillip Hamer
Contraband Theater

It was inevitable that plays about the COVID-19 pandemic would happen. There have already been online plays and stories concerning this world-changing event, and with live theatre back in full swing, it only stands to reason that plays about the pandemic would start to appear more often. The only problem is, the relatively new (to St. Louis) Contraband Theatre has now set the bar so high with its latest new play that I’m not sure how anyone else will be able to measure up. I welcome the efforts, but Jacob Juntunen’s See You In a Minute is at once a reflection, a character study, a mildly science fiction-y exploration, and a portrayal of various levels of grief that I’m not sure can be matched. It’s that good, and as produced at The Chapel arts venue by an excellent cast under the direction of the always-excellent Ellie Schwetye, this show has made such an impression on me that I’m sure I will be thinking about it for some time. 

This play isn’t just about one pandemic, though. It’s about the next pandemic as well–in 2041. Kathryn (Ricki Franklin) is the educational director for an off-Broadway theatre company in New York, but she’s come home to St. Louis to help her parents during the new health crisis. Her dad, Joseph (Joseph Garner), is a playful, encouraging guy who offers his daughter sandwiches and plays childhood games with her involving stuffed animals used as puppets. Her mother, Deb (Kelly Howe), is a more practically-minded engineer who wants to focus on the immediate situation and not dwell in the past. There’s obviously something about the last pandemic, and the family’s experience at that time, that Kathryn isn’t able to get straight answers about, but there are other, more pressing situations in her life, as well. Her director in New York, Kris (Joshua Mayfield) is concerned that Kathryn hasn’t finished her presentation/sales pitch for high schools about the company’s upcoming production of the classic play Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Kathryn, for her part, is struggling to find the century-old play’s relevance in modern times, and she keeps finding convenient ways to procrastinate while Kris, under increasing pressure from the theatre company’s board, grows ever more anxious. 

There are a lot of issues being dealt with here, but nothing seems rushed or cluttered. Issues of artistic integrity vs. financial struggles in theatre, generational differences, pandemics, grief, and family responsibilities, among other issues, are dealt with with focus and clarity, as well as a degree of poetic elegance. There’s also an impressive balance between humor and drama, as well as some “twist” moments that are given just the right level of timing and weight to make their utmost impact. It’s a sensitive, insightful, theatrically literate, exquisitely emotional play that works especially well under Schwetye’s well-measured direction and with the superb efforts of the first-rate creative team, including set designer Caleb D. Long, Costume Designer Carly Uding, and especially lighting designer Morgan Brennan and sound designer Schwetye.

The staging is simple and efficient, with just the right level of emotional resonance, and the script is well-crafted, with a few surprises as well as some elements that are somewhat predictable to a point, but don’t play out exactly as they might. There are also some sci-fi elements since it’s set in the future–including scientific advances that make sense for the times–that are treated more as a simple matter-of-fact rather than major points of the story. 

As for the acting, it’s excellent. Franklin is engaging and relatable as Kathryn, making her various struggles and dilemmas believable and immediate, and her relationships–with both parents and with Kris–are especially credible. Garner is full of warmth and energy as the creative, encouraging Joseph–bringing a great deal of enthusiasm to the puppet shows in particular–and Howe is just as excellent as the more reserved but just as caring Deb. As Kris, Mayfield is thoroughly believable as a conflicted theatre director whose loyalties are challenged by circumstance. It’s a strong, cohesive ensemble that lends much emotional weight to the story.

See You In a Minute is at once timely, challenging, and ultimately hopeful. It’s a profoundly affecting theatrical experience, and an excellent introduction to the work of playwright Jacob Juntunen and Contraband Theatre. There’s so much else I could write, but I won’t because its best to experience it yourself. So far, it’s my favorite new play in St. Louis this decade. 


Joshua Mayfield, Kelly Howe, Joseph Garner, Ricki Franklin
Photo by Phillip Hamer
Contraband Theatre

Contraband Theatre is presenting See You in a Minute at The Chapel until October 28, 2023

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