The Final Week for Dobama's Critically Acclaimed John

Dobama Theatre
Professional Equity House Theatre

By: Annie Baker

Under the Artistic Direction of Nathan Motta, Dobama Theatre is expanding its vision to end up in a self-actualization that will set it apart from other theatres in town.  The theatre is now a Professional Equity House Theatre. That in itself is a statement of power and influence all on its own. But by calling or upgrading yourself, also means you have to deliver. And deliver big. Previously, Motta directed a profound production of "The Flick" by Annie Baker. In fact, the American Playwright won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for this work. So it makes perfect sense to offer another helping of Baker's work. The current production of "John" is that offering.

One cold November night, Elias (Luke Wehner) and Jenny (Cat Shy), a young couple struggling to stay together, stop at a bed & breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During their visit they encounter a cheerful innkeeper Mertis (Catherine Albers), her blind friend Genevieve (Dorothy Silver), and an eerie world crammed with toys, figurines and one very odd American Girl doll. This mystic puzzle of a play is full of surprises, both human and supernatural. 

This production will test you for many reasons. One is the length, as it takes a little over 3 hours to spin this tale. Audiences are not used to this amount of concentration in general, so any production of that length has to be packed to the gills with stimulation of senses, or at the very least and not less important, intellectual intensity. This production offers much to be enjoyed with incredibly detailed production values, and a cast that offers some severe acting chops.

Watching Wehner and Shy slowly unveil the arc of their story is fascinating to watch. The story itself is certainly spread out over the evening, but seeing these two, in what feels like real time, requires immense concentration, endurance, and focus. Wehner is serving up coffee shop realness with expresso character detail, and a well measured emotional performance. Shy is fantastic. She is a visual seductress of acting that entices you to spend time listening and watching her every move. She has an incredible connectivity with the audience and delivers constantly throughout the evening. Both have the ingredients for formidable careers.

Joining these two performers are two actresses that are a culmination of every theatrical ingredient that exists, refined, and brilliantly presented. Catherine Albers leads the parade as in innkeeper who seems to present a question whether there are more skeletons in her closet or her mind. Her accomplished Mertis gives us two sides of crazy for our enjoyment. One is the sweetest woman you will ever meet. Taking care of her husband (that you never meet), and taking care of her guests. She has an octave lower self that makes a visit once in a while, and the transition is enjoyably weird and indicates that the Time Warp probably happened at some party here in the past. Albers is excellent. Then at the top of the theatrical mountain offering us the greatest view an actor could hope for is Dorothy Silver as Genevieve. Her character is blind, but she is able to see into everyone's soul and enables us to laugh, question, and most importantly listen. She is a living master class. A Sensei for all that know her and study her acting choices like they are B-12 shots of life-giving intrinsic career enabling bolts of lighting. Her monologue describing her descent into insanity is a gift.

The production team was up to the challenge of creating a remarkable canvas for this story to unfold. Scenic Designer Cameron Caley Michalak serves up a fierce bed and breakfast, Dred Geib props abound in distraction and purpose, Marcus Dana lighting the space with professional flair, Jeremy Dobbins giving us clear sound, and Inda Blatch-Gieb costumes this piece to attractive detail and sensitivity. 

Will you like this production? I truly think the answer lies in an age-old question that happens in an art gallery. There is a piece hanging on a wall. A group of individuals feast their eyes on it and take in what they are seeing and feeling. When you ask them what they think of the painting, some will say "It was brilliant", some will say "it was ok", and some will say "I didn't get it". I think that is what we may have here. You alone will determine if you enjoy the experience. It is strongly directed, strongly designed, and strongly acted. So the answer will be if you found the pauses in the dialogue empty, or full? The intrigue created but never resolved, fascinating to watch or disappointing that there wasn't a brazen answer to the tension? Or was it just too long?

There were some observations. I thought the play tried too hard to create something scary by just simply staring at something. I never was scared, but I felt I should be because people were staring at an object. Also, the pauses in dialogue is an acquired taste, especially when you ask the audience to spend over three hours with the characters. From my own personal experience, I only felt cheated when the last line of the play was uttered, which resulted in a voice in my head saying. "I waited three hours for this?". Then I was ashamed of myself by thinking I suck as an artist because I didn't get it the more ethereal message that was being sent by the play.

So what a great review right? The production value is strong. There are many gifts within, and one of the greatest is Dorothy Silver. There is always magic when a living legend takes the stage. I know I feel more fulfilled having that memory to pull from for inspiration.
Ticket Information
and Promotional Materials


7:30pm Wednesdays
7:30pm Thursdays
8pm Fridays
8pm Saturdays
2:30pm Sundays (10/21 at 7:30 instead)

**$15 Preview Performances 10/16 and 10/18 at 7:30pm**

Runtime: 2h 20m (two 10m intermissions)
Content Advisory: Adult Language, Adult Situations

$10-$29 Reserved Seating

(216) 932-3396
Order Tickets Online

Dobama Theatre
2340 Lee Road
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118