Tuesday August 22nd 2017

“Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter”

For the many years I have attended The Next Theatre Company in Evanston, I have found their work to be solid with scripts that are stories  of both entertainment and educational. Their current production, Julie Marie Myatt’s “Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter”, while well acted, is not a story that I can recommend to everyone. First of all the topic is “healing” and all the characters in this play are in need of same. Some are working toward it, others may never truly find it. The story begins in what appears to be a tent-like structure in a war zone where we find Jenny Sutter ( a powerful performance by Lily Mojekwu), a marine who has evidently lost her leg and is about to be shipped back to the United States. We watch her struggle changing into civvies and walk off on her own. Trouble is, we are not sure of what happened to her and it is not until later in the story that we realize that her leg is gone, not just wounded.

The next scene finds us in a seed bus station somewhere in California where she waits for a bus to “somewhere” as she doesn’t want to return home in her present condition. She does however meet another lady traveler,Lou, (deftly handled by Jenny Avery) who is a little nutty and has been forced to give up everything that she likes. They travel together back to Lou’s house which it turns out is an ex-military base known as the “slabs” where tents and campers line the streets. The set(Rick and Jackie Penrod) is clever in design as the plastic walls of the bus station lift to reveal a sort of tent -like structure where the people , mostly losers and loners reside. Directed by Jessica Thebus, there are times you wonder what is going on( with a juggler juggling lighted balls, musicians coming in as furniture gets moved- quite confusing!) as we shift from scene to scene and day to day with very little notice of the transitions.

The characters in this play are indeed characters. Each one with a past but no future. Jenny has a secret, one that caused her to lose her leg, her spirit and her desire to go back to normalcy. While Lou represents the “person” who wants Jenny to feel that her country has not deserted during this time, most of the others in this “tent town” do not share the same attitude, feeling that this is a war we should not be involved in. With the aid of Lou’s “shrink”,Cheryl ( Hannah Dworkin) who is in actuality a hair dresser, the local Minister ,Buddy ( the always reliable Lawrence Grimm), who is also Lou’s “lover” and Donald ( Kurt Brocker), we find out more about Jenny and what took place and the guilt that will not allow her to go home to her daughters. It is Lou that makes her see the light and at the end of the play, Jenny does head home and Lou heads on the road, perhaps in search of another soul to save.

There are some very funny moments in this 90 minute “dark comedy” that deal with both physical and mental wounds as well as guilt that people bottle up when it comes to wars that perhaps we have no reason to be involved in. hose of us back here, often pay no attention to those returning from lets say, Iran,Viet Nam and Korea , to mention a few, who have killed for the first time or have harmed people and just left them behind. The mental anguish they feel may live on with them for the rest of their lives. And yet, for the most part, when they come back, we ignore their hurt and pain. The other characters in this story are the fringe population of misfits and yet, in a way , they play off and help each other. While this is a stirring well acted story, it is not a complete one and is not for everyone. But you be the judge.

You can catch “Welcome Back,Jenny Sutter” at Next Theatre ,at the Noyes Cultural Center located at 927 Noyes Street in Evanston through December 23rd.

The performance schedule is as follows:

Thursdays 7:30 p.m.,Fridays 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

There are also Saturday 4 p.m. performances starting December 1st.

Tickets range from $30-$40 and can be puchased by calling 847-475-1875 ext 2 or online at www.nexttheatre.org


There is a free parking lot and street parking as well plus public transportation is available

On Sundays there are “talkbacks” after the performance

To see what others say, on my homepage, link to theatre in Chicago and then click Review Round-up, then click at “Welcome Home,Jenny Sutter”


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