I’ve actually been struggling with where to begin when organizing my thoughts on “An Evening With Mr. Johnson”. I usually just sit there and let things just sort of dribble out until there’s a fairly steady stream, but there was nothing. So I sort of sat there, staring, wondering why the dang thing wasn’t working. I had laughed almost constantly, found it hard to breathe through the laughter, and I truly had a great time. Why couldn’t I express myself? Jodi Gilmore starts the show off with a laugh and we get a lot of the expected puns right out of the way. He delivers a fantastic little monologue about his preparation for the role complete with visual aids. We then dive headlong into the story; Ed (L.J. Brewer) is spending New Years Eve alone after a particularly nasty break up with his fiancée. It seems that Ed’s past struggles with faithlessness have landed him in hot water before. Struggling to understand his failings, Ed eventually blames that poor body part and sparks an all too familiar debate. Gilmore is that irreverent, sarcastic, and somewhat volatile appendage. It’s a classic battle between the Id and the Ego to determine dominance over the male psyche, with both sides attempting to reconcile the desires of the other. Brewer is grounded as an average guy coping with the problems of interpersonal relationships as he approaches middle age. He still wants to see himself as the dangerous young man he once was but his Id has started to remind him that those moments are limited and there are really only a few years left. Michael Matteos’ script isn’t just hilarious, it’s also a little brutally honest when it comes to facing those later years.
But there is only so far a person can go in facing their own issues. They can talk as much as they want, but it’s ultimately a struggle with your self. Whatever terms you come to, you eventually have to face the rest of the world. It’s the second acts’ introduction of Alison Smith as Ed’s fiancée that sets him on a collision course with even deeper issues. The fact that she’s a psychiatrist and her clinical demeanor have driven a sharp spike between the original pair, and Smith presents a fantastic foil to Gilmore’s earlier snark and irreverence. That collision is the set up for a series of hilarious exchanges between Ed, his Id, and the fiancée as they struggle to cope with Ed’s betrayal and identity issues.
Koly McBride brings a fantastic script to life and delivers another wonderful evening at the Paper Wing Theater. And you have no idea how much I wish I had a better sentence than that. It’s unoriginal, it’s not daring, it’s not clever, and it completely lacks the poetic flair that my praise should give it. I sat on the computer for a couple nights, struggling to figure out the right words… and that stupid sentence kept popping into my head over and over again. I would read it, erase it, and then write it again. It’s not that it isn’t true, because it is. It’s that so bland and banal a sentence seems so ill fitting for such a great time. It was well worth my time and I caught my wife laughing out loud at several moments, so why don’t you do yourselves a favor and check out “An Evening with Mr. Johnson”.