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Going with Jenny
a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Thomas & Sherry Jo Ward

COMPANY : Theatrical Outfit [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Balzer Theatre @ Herren's [WEBSITE]
ID# 3263

SHOWING : January 28, 2009 - February 15, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

This world premiere takes a hilarious Gen-X look at dating and marriage and ultimately discovers what keeps couples of all generations together and in love. Recommended for age 16 and above.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Mark Smith
Scenic Designer John Thigpen
Woman Mandy Schmeider
Man Travis Smith
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REVIEWS

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Friends and Lovers
by Dedalus
Thursday, February 5, 2009
3.0
A few months ago, I took to task the musical “I Do I Do” for trying to be more about “Every Couple” than about “This Couple.” My preference in a play is always to see what makes particular characters unique, not what makes them the same as everyone else. The world premier play at Theatrical Outfit. “Going With Jenny” by Thomas and Sherry Jo Ward, to my mind, makes the same mistake.

To further compound the problem, the play is structured as two not-as-competing-as-they-should monologues. In Act One, “He” recounts his history of relationships and his disappointments in his marriage over the course of an hour. Act Two gives us “She” doing the same thing. Unfortunately, their stories are achingly similar with nothing new or profound revealed by the extended monologue format or by the competing points of view. The evening is salvaged a bit by the two characters being interesting and often intriguingly witty, and by the performances by Travis Smith and Mandy Schmeider, who manage to portray a credible couple without any real on-stage interactions (until the last moments).

This does create a bit of a dramaturgical paradox – here are two very unique and individual characters, yet the portrait of relationships and love is generic and monolithic. The (married) playwrights tell us their purpose is to give us an “honest revelation of the intricacies and intimacies that comprise the ebbs and flows of real relationships”. However, the intricacies are less evident than implied, and the intimacies are knee-capped by the monologue format. The result is strangely unconvincing and even a bit contrived. For example, we see a sorta-kinda amusing moment (twice) where “He” strips to his underwear, sits at the kitchen sink, and, armed with air freshener, sneaks a smoke. Yet, “she” professes no aversion to his smoking, and even acknowledges it’s a game of deception they play in which both know no one is actually deceived. I was left wondering why go to all that trouble for something that means that little?

On the other hand, the conceit that “His” past relationships were mostly with women named “Jenny” (all spelled differently in singularly unconvincing ways) and he married someone “Not-Named-Jenny” is also quite “writery” without being realistic (or even amusing). That the characters are given such strong characters, yet remain nameless, is also pretentious. Add to that a resolution that is “Happy Ending” contrived, and, well, we’re left with a play that is all form with little substance.

On the other hand, I did like the structure – “He” spends Act I moving around the kitchen and living room while talking to us, and we see “She” moving around the bedroom. In Act Two, the characters echo their Act I movements, yet now we hear “Her” monologue. If some of their movements seem “busy” and contrived – for example, “She” empties a drawerful of white socks to match them up, but ends up just dumping them back in the drawer with no attempt at order, and he pulls out out checkbook and stack of bills to complain about money, but does nothing with it – Well, that just adds to the superficial nature of the whole effort.

On the other hand, the impetus for the play – an “out-of-control” party across the street that keeps them awake and reminds them of all the stuff they gave up to settle for marriage – remains a distraction throughout, and eventually becomes as irritating as, well, as a neighbor’s loud party that keeps you awake all night.

On the other hand, neither character is called upon to display a great deal of emotion. The entire play is simple ruminating, dredging up memories and disappointments to share with us, mostly delivered at a narrow volume / energy range. The experience is rather like watching someone else’s vacation movies.

On the other hand, they are intriguing characters, both valuing friendships with the “other sex” more than relationships. The fact that the “best man” at my wedding was actually a woman indicates that that is a character trait I can definitely empathize with. (Just to digress – I knew I was in trouble when my wife-to-be and best-friend-that-was bonded over embarrassing things I’d done over the years.) I liked that “She” grew up a tomboy, that they both remember incidents of love-relationships as children, that they both are struggling with the disappointments that marrying young can bring.

On the other hand, I sincerely think the monologue format is counter-productive in portraying a couple grappling with such issues, or that the implied inevitability of disillusionment is always the case, or that any single couple can adequately be indicative of marriages (or relationships) in general. And I really missed not knowing their names (or careers).

On the other hand, I liked how the play looked, how the set realistically portrayed their small apartment (symbolically showing no main entrance or exit), and how they were able to occupy the apartment while remaining apart until the very end.

Still and all, I do not respect (or enjoy) any attempt to paint relationships with the same color, and the attempt to do so invariably seems contrived.

At one point, “She” complains that the one thing she never expected from marriage was boredom. I can only respond that the one thing I did not expect from this play was that same boredom. This is one story that did not "stir my soul.”

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)



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