January Joiner- Weight Loss Comedy Raises More Puzzlement than Laughs

By Karen Isaacs

January Joiner, the world premier play now at Long Wharf Theater's Stage II, is billed as a weight loss horror comedy. I might also say that it has a strong dose of the science fiction genre in it as well.


Two sisters, Terry and Myrtle enroll in a Florida weight loss boot camp after Terry has had a heart attack. The only other client is Darnell, who uses the facility as a social gathering making annual trips but never losing weight. The staff is apparently limited to two high energy, thin trainers -- Brian and April. Plus there is a mysterious vending machine that can entice the dieters by magically offering them their favorite treats.


While there are some funny lines, January Joiner misses the mark. For example, the title? While you may figure out that it refers to the idea that many New Year's resolutions involved weight loss and exercise and both gyms and weight loss programs have a spike in membership at those times, the play is set in the summer.


And why does the vending machine spew out a knife to Myrtle? I could ask many more such questions. When in the second act, Terry is replaced by a thinner and much shorter character called "Not Terry" -- who everyone but Myrtle accepts as Terry, why doesn't anyone notice the difference in height? Is this part of what the trainers mean when they say the clients will become new people?


While well acted and directed by Eric Ting, this work at times seems like a Saturday Night Live sketch that has gone on too long, or a novice writer's attempt at camp science fiction.


I did find some sympathy for three of the characters, Myrtle, Brian and Darnell, but we were not given enough to really become involved.


January Joiner is at Long Wharf's Stage II to February 10.


This review aired on WNHU 88.7 fm and on wnhu.net

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