Johnny A. Cannon | Immediate Theatre Project

Telepathic dueling, champagne poppers, riddles, double-crossing, flappers—Johnny A. Cannon has it all.

 

Written and directed by Kyle Kratky
Through June 3, 2006

On the Immediacy Theatre Project Web site, Danielle Borsch, associate artistic director, is quoted as saying, "Never do we want to run the risk of saying the same thing twice." Which is funny, because many lines in the premier of Kyle Kratky's Johnny A. Cannon are repeated much more than twice.

In the hands of Kratky-co-founder and co-artistic director of the company-old clichés are new again, and the repetition and familiarity inherent in the material are funny. Most everything about Johnny A. Cannon earned a laugh from the audience. The humor is accessible, despite the fact that the play draws heavily on pop culture. Even when the source material can't be identified, the show is funny, thanks to the actors and their mishmash of props and crazy dance moves.

The play is the story of Johnny A. Cannon (Adam Hamm), orphaned boy-come-hero. As a child, Cannon was abandoned by his mother in the river (represented by a bucket decorated with waves), but saved by another family who raised him to be a young adult with the capability of saving his country-New Pacifica, the United Confederation of New Americas-from an impending terrorist attack. But Johnny suffered a memory loss at a critical time, and a doctor struggles to coax forth his recollections, which are acted out in a series of flashbacks.

Hamm, looking cool yet slightly goofy, with longish hair, dark sunglasses, black leather jacket, delivers some excellent one-liners. There's a joke at every turn: when the doctor informs Johnny that he lost some of his memories, Johnny asks, "Which memories?" "Pre-" becomes "Non-post," "pilfered text" is justified to the audience in an aside that goes into copyright law, plagiarism, and satire. The show is so funny at times, the actors couldn't quite keep a straight face, which wouldn't be all that great except that they seemed to be trying so hard not to crack. This isn't a "we're so clever" kind of cast, but more of a "we're having so much fun we can't help ourselves" cast.

Nothing is sacred: Everything from the "obligatory car chase" to the junior high school dance at arm's length is targeted. The ensemble moves through a short history of the art of dance, not to mention various incarnations of the theatrical chorus. Telepathic dueling, champagne poppers, riddles, double-crossing, flappers—Johnny A. Cannon has it all.

The ensemble of six young actors, three men and three women, did a fantastic job of changing roles, often from minute to minute. Kratky, who also directed, did a good job of keeping the scenes flowing and keeping the audience's attention in the right place.

Running 90 minutes with no intermission, the action moves along as fast as one would wish, especially when sitting on a metal bar stool with uneven legs. Thankfully, the show has very few slow moments, and a few almost dizzying moments. Although maybe not a show for the pop-culture anemic, probably most everyone could catch a reference or two, or just enjoy the goofiness of the production. The theater was a bit on the warm side, and you'll want to get there early to get a good seat, as it sure to be crowded, and the small room fills quickly.

Is there a bigger message behind the laughs? Probably, but it's difficult to get hold of, through the onslaught of jokes. Will our hero save the day? Will the doctors save the patient? Will everything be OK in the end? Pop culture seems to say it is so, and the government (the President of Pacifica, by the way, resides in the "off-white" house) would certainly have us believe, but do we have a hero along the lines of Johnny A. Cannon to save us? Only time will tell.

Immediacy Theatre Project Web site

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