JOHN & JEN by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald, directed by Michael Jones (Acting Up). At Walmer Centre (188 Lowther Rd). To February 11. $27-$30, stu/rush available. 416-927-7880, www.johnandjen.ca. See Continuing Listings. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Local company Acting Up say their mandate is to provide "a theatrical experience for modern, contemporary audiences." Ironically, their show john & jen is so dated it could pass as satire if it weren't so desperately devoid of relevance.
Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald 's play attempts to use the tumult of the 60s to frame the relationship between a brother and sister and her son. The historical context only serves to give the female lead an excuse to smoke dope onstage while talking about protesting against the Vietnam War: it's an attempt to be topical and lends absolutely nothing to the story save for a tired bit of titillation and nostalgia that most baby boomers will find thin.
Whatever your generation, you've seen this story before. John & jen starts out with Jen ( Stephanie Roth ) as a precocious six-year-old crooning to her newborn brother John in his bassinet while kneeling in front of a grainy picture of a young man in army fatigues. Not hard to see how this plot detail comes out.
Roth's beautiful voice and Kyle Blair 's equally true vocal tone as John add a bit of credibility to the forgettable melodies - when they aren't belting out the words. The lyrics flip through the dictionary of musical clichés, including (but not limited to) abusive and distant fathers, songs about spreading your wings and flying, and the magical and awesome redemptive power of Santa Claus.
Roth and Blair simultaneously fudge through Marc Kimelman 's choreography, which wouldn't be half so bad if there were half as much of it.
I hope the future brings more interesting pieces to the stage for this young company - ones that limit the scope of their performers less drastically.