The Quinnipiac Theater for Community presented “Johnny Johnson” at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre from Nov. 11-14.
Professor Crystal Brian directed the play, a period piece set in 1917 during World War I. The play gave the audience a peek into the world of an average American facing the pressure of war and its effects.
The title character, peace-loving Johnny, played by newcomer Michael Bobenhausen, was portrayed in a similar manner to Forrest Gump – a bit slow, but lovable with common sense nonetheless.
Bobenhausen gave a strong performance, and without the right Johnny, the play would not have been able to function. He is truly the only central character of the musical.
The cast consisted of an ensemble of 12 students, all of whom played multiple parts, with the exception of freshman Emily Seibert, who appeared exclusively as Minnie Belle, Johnny’s love interest. Her performance shined as the patriotic townswoman, who served as the driving source behind Johnny’s decisions in the show.
The shortage of actors at times proved difficult in understanding which character was being portrayed in the scene.
“In preparing for each of my characters, I first just went off of instinct,” senior cast member Michael Pray said. “The names of the characters were incredible first clues that immediately brought to mind different physicalities and patterns of speech which were further reinforced by their words themselves…the trick was making each of these characters big, expressive, and different while keeping them believable and grounded in the reality of the play.”
Pray and junior Travis Weisse stole the show with their over-the-top but accurate character portrayals. They also allowed their voices to radiate throughout the theater. Unfortunately, during the musical portion of the play, the women’s soprano voices were heavily drowned out by the music, making it difficult to understand them. Sophomore Kasey Quinlan was an exception, as she commanded attention while singing “Mon Ami, My Friend.”
Photo credit: Mark Stanczak
The costumes were very basic and appropriate for the play, insinuating the uniformity of the times.
The basic set design proved to be powerful. The ever-present American flag backdrop, painted with the words “A war to end all wars is sometimes worth fighting over so we can have true peace,” easily reflected the themes of “Johnny Johnson.”