2018 Next Stage Theatre Review: JONNO (Rabbit in a Hat Productions)

Glenda Braganza, Alanis Peart, and Erica Anderson in Jonno at Next Stage 2018

JONNO opened on Wednesday evening as part of the Next Stage Theatre Festival at Factory Theatre. It’s described as an “An angry comedy about a famous radio personality, the women he assaults, and Mr. Donkey Long-Ears, his only friend.” Not much of a stretch to figure out the inspiration for the play.

This is such a timely play. More timely, in fact, than playwright Alix Sobler could have anticipated when she wrote it or when it was produced at the Winnipeg Fringe this past summer.

Given the trigger warnings, the arrangements in place for people to leave the performance if they need to (and to be re-seated in the balcony if they would like to come back) the “angry comedy” label, and my own experience, I expected that this would be quite an emotional experience for me. It wasn’t. I just didn’t connect with the characters.

The angriest character in the play was Jonno (Jason Deline). There was an edge to everything he said. As he professed to love women he was taking a breath to complain that women didn’t get him. Even his conversations with Mr. Donkey Long-Ears were angry. He really was a despicable character.

The problem for me was that he was so very despicable. He was an arrogant, self-important, conceited, pretentious ass. There was nothing attractive about the character. There was no charm, no vulnerability. In my experience men like this use charm or vulnerability to attract women in the first place. That’s why women go home with them.

The funniest character was Maureen (Alanis Peart), the woman from the Corporation who could switch in the blink of an eye from tight-ass corporate to sexually aggressive. Peart’s timing is terrific.

But. I was pretty uncomfortable with the sexual aggression. The fact that a woman was directing it to a man in order to teach him a lesson didn’t make it ok. It was like teaching your child not to hit by hitting them.

There was one scene that seemed out of place in the play. Jonno had a video of an intimate encounter that he was showing to three Corporate bosses in order to show them that there was nothing to worry about. The bosses were played by women wearing suit jackets and strange hats who contorted themselves in their seats and spoke in strange voices. I think it would have been more effective if it had been played straight but with the same dialogue.

The play was certainly angry but in a way that felt unemotional to me. It’s a stretch to call it a comedy. There were a few funny lines but not the kind of dark humour that the label ‘angry comedy’ led me to expect.

All in all JONNO and I weren’t a match. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be.

Details:

Photo of Glenda Braganza, Alanis Peart, and Erica Anderson by Dahlia Katz

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