BWW Review: JOHN Bewitches Audiences at Undermain Theatre
Undermain Theatre continues its 34th season with JOHN, a show that simply should not be missed. Annie Baker, Pulitzer-winning playwright of THE FLICK, is one of the great storytellers of our time. On the surface, JOHN is about a couple who is navigating a crisis in their relationship. But by interweaving realism and drama with hints of the supernatural, Baker's play creates anxiety in the audience that perfectly complements the conflicts in the story. Though the plot itself is simple, this unique approach to a tale of quarreling lovers keeps viewers guessing as they try to stay ahead of the twists and turns.
The Dallas premiere of JOHN is directed by Bruce Dubose, and the cast is composed of a very talented group of four actors. The performances of Olivia de Guzman (Jenny) and Scott Zenreich (Elias) are sincere and honest, as they portray the young couple whose relationship is unraveling in the middle of a weekend trip. Like with any great piece of theatre, their performances hold a mirror to the audience. It is impossible to watch this show without having an uncomfortable feeling that the young couple is familiar somehow. Elly Lindsay's portrayal of the quirky innkeeper (Mertis) is remarkable. Lindsay masterfully keeps the audience on edge as they try to decide whether she is a sweet elderly woman or a manipulative psychopath. Rhonda Boutté plays Mertis's friend, the larger-than-life Genevieve, whose stories of misfortune bring a dark humor to several tense moments.
Undermain Theatre is the perfect home for this modern-day drama, which is set at a B&B in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The intimate space keeps patrons close to the action. The audience is practically sitting in the living room as the quirky innkeeper Mertis (Lindsay) stares out as if sensing a ghostly presence in her home. The set is so elaborate and intriguing that it becomes like a fifth character in the show, with props that seem to take on a life of their own. There are times in the show when the audience will be left staring at an empty room, only to feel as though there is still action taking place before them. Perfectly timed musical and lighting cues are executed flawlessly to create this effect. And despite the technical challenge of a show that includes several conversations which take place off set, the audience is able to hear every word clearly.
If you are interested in a show that is intelligent, haunting, and deeply human, don't miss this spectacular production of Annie Baker's JOHN at Undermain Theatre. Tickets are available at http://www.undermain.org/. Show runs through December 3rd, with tickets for remaining performances starting at $20.