auto 0in">The first act focuses on the relationship between two siblings. Jen is the older and more rebellious sister who serves as caretaker to her brother, John, who is more eager to please their strict and sometimes abusive military father. The siblings' relationship becomes strained when Jen leaves for college and becomes a hippie, and John succumbs to the expectations of his father and joins the Navy. The second act focuses on Jen's attempts to make up for all of her failings as a sister through her relationship with her son, whom she names John.
"John & Jen" will stage Friday through Sunday before Poteet takes it to the American Association of Community Theatre Festival in Texas this April. Poteet won several awards for it at the 2008 Oklahoma Community Theatre Festival, including accolades for the production, acting and orchestra.
The first act is a little stereotypical in its depiction of a family divided in the 1960s, treading ground that has been examined more thoroughly and earnestly in numerous other works of art. It is also hurt by breakneck pacing. The second act is superior, telling a more original, interesting and sometimes disturbing story of how a former hippie can become a well-intentioned but overbearing control-freak parent who unfairly offloads a ton of emotional baggage onto her son.
That's where the emotional core really comes out, and where the actors "? who both turn in committed and dynamic performances "? really shine. Teel has a difficult role in Jen, but manages to keep the audience's support in spite of her mistakes. Adams deserves special praise for playing both Johns, brother and son, to Jen. In his body language and voice, he fully embodies the irrepressibility of youth, the awkwardness of adolescence, and the struggle to be a man.
While not particularly memorable, the music is pretty punchy. Director Sara Phoenix and music director Jay Prock have done an impressive job of delivering the most essential parts of the story within an hour. However, it would be nice to see them tackle the full version, allowing the story to open up and breathe a little. In the meantime, "John & Jen" is a dense firecracker of a show.