Regional Theatre Review: The Eagle Theatre- John & Jen
A new take on a black box musical!
John & Jen at The Eagle Theatre is more than heartwarming, it’s innovative and underrated. Thankfully, there are a few more performances left before it ends its run in Hammonton, NJ. Ok, driving to nearly Atlantic City isn’t Philly, but….the theatre community in Philadelphia has embraced this young company with open arms.
Adam Hoyak (John) and Kimberly Suskind (Jen) have a darling connection. Their vocal prowess was enough to get them their parts but it’s their chemistry that allowed this story to truly unfold. Director, Ted Wioncek III, explained during the curtain speech, that this production isn’t often produced and when it is, it’s traditionally in a black box. Wioncek took the story into an old attic. It was full of old relics that were used throughout the story in an effective way. It was so lifelike. Design team Wioncek/Miller really could pass as independent contractors. You would know at first glance that it was a theatre set.
I am not one who likes to summarize so I’ve taken this quick blurb directly from eagletheatre.org’s website:
“A truly original musical that delves into the complexities of relationships between brothers and sisters and parents and children, set against the background of changing America between 1950 and 1990.”
I could be biased as I know both actors personally; however, I’ve never seen Kimberly Suskind perform a a role like this before. She takes aging to a whole level. It was nuanced, graceful, and at times gut- wrenching. Adam Hoyak is one of Philly’s busiest young actors. He has now performed his first Equity role in John & Jen and I do believe there will be no stopping him. His falsetto is crisp, his comedic timing is flawless, and gives side-eye like no other. Both performers are staples at The Eagle Theatre and rightfully so!
Written by Andrew Lippa and Tom Greenwald, the book of this show could essentially have each act stand on its own. As it’s only sung, at times, some songs may have been a little repetitive. I am Sicilian so I like when you can get right to the point! However, the vocal chops of both actors made up for it. A lovely contemporary score that I’m sure cabaret artists love to steal from as each song tells a story.
The theatre is intimate and all seats are cushioned and on risers so there is no bad seat in the house. The staff is also extremely courteous and friendly. If you like dinner and a show, the little main street in Hammonton is quaint and you can find a wine bar, a pizzeria, and a coffee house within a block of the theatre. Oh, did I mention they have parking!!! (A bonus for us Philly folk!)
Just a couple performances left as this endearing piece ends it’s run on April 9th. Grab your EZ Pass and hop on the bridge and get yourself to Jersey!
The Eagle Theatre
Address: 208 Vine St, Hammonton, NJ 08037
Phone: (609) 704-5012