Quietly Powerful Production at Westport's MTC Mainstage
by June September April
It is refreshing to attend a theatre that has original music and a story that rings true. Those of us who have experienced the pain of a loved one going off to fight, with issues unresolved, brings greater pain upon their death, and brings home the imperative that communication makes all the difference in relationships. Such is the power of "john & jen." Though it debuted in 1995 off-Broadway it is still timely and by the very nature of man (and woman) will ever be timely.
This very intimate theatre is a perfect venue for this two-person musical. The composer, Andrew Lippa also co-wrote the book with lyricist Tom Greenwald. Their credentials and achievements are too numerous to cite here, but it is worthwhile to go to www.andrewlippa.com to be easily impressed.
Act One takes place between a brother and a sister whose parents are abusive, and the childrens' relationship is exceedingly close and interdependent. Act Two follows the impact of the brother's death on his sister who has a son. That baby is the namesake and her connection to her fulfillment of her life and the unfinished life of her dead brother.
Skillfully directed by Kevin Connors, Catherine Porter as caring/free spirited Jen propels the audience through the angst of loss and the growth of a person as both mother and individual. A physically big man, Tommy Faster is able to portray John as a child and as rebellious teenager to adult with complete success. Their voices were good and their characterizations were well-balanced with the lyrics.
With the tiny stage space, the set designed by James Burns was wonderfully creative with everything looking as it should be there, and being physically close-at-hand.
For a refreshing change from the "big" and oft repeated shows, MTC is a notable diversion to mind and sight and offers theatre in a format that works and is easy for an audience to connect to.