Friendship, love, treacherous waters and bongs are all tested in this weighted romantic dramedy.
“Jack Goes Boating” is essentially a story of a guy trying to find himself and live his life the best way he knows how. And it wouldn’t be so bad to have some company on his boat trip of life, right?
“Jack Goes Boating” premiered Off-Broadway in a Labyrinth Theater Company production on March 18, 2007 at Martinson Hall at the Joseph Papp Public Theater. It was directed by Peter Dubois. The show received generally positive reviews.
Generic Theater’s production was directed by Kathy Strouse. She captained a team of great actors and brought this unconventional piece to life.
“Jack Goes Boating” follows a group of New Yorker friends through the ups and downs of friendship, love and relationships. Our protagonist Jack, played by Garney Johnson, is an awkward Eeyore-like limo driver with an affinity for reggae. Jack’s best friend Clyde, played by Miguel Girona, and his wife Lucy, played by Angelica Michelle, arrange a fix-up between Jack and Connie, played by Lauren R. Rodgers, a woman Lucy works with at a mortuary. The play hinges on the same questions as any romance does: Will Jack and Connie like each other? Will they be able to put aside their relationship baggage and make a connection? Will they live happily ever after? Will Connie join Jack on his boat trip of life?
The cast does a terrific job with the material and with illuminating the working class characters that populate the story. Johnson’s Jack gives you all the feels of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the play’s original off-Broadway Jack. He bears a physical resemblance to him as well. Johnson embodies the shyness and tentativeness of the character; you can see he is battling internally with himself. Michelle’s portrayal of Lucy is spot on; the way she handles the moment when she discovers Clyde has told Jack of her past infidelity is priceless.
Rodgers brings Connie’s many insecurities to life. She is very vulnerable at times, specifically the moments she and Johnson are in bed. These moments are so intimate and alluring to watch that you think you shouldn’t be watching. Girona transforms himself into the stoned, jealous limo driver with a Zen-like approach to swimming. His performance is polished and the moments in which he perches shirtless on the edge of the pool instructing an unseen Jack in the art of the perfect swim stroke, illustrating the right and wrong way of executing each movement, are some the production’s best scenes.
The design elements in Generic’s production were hit or miss. The sound, designed with a clear understanding of the story by John C. Roberts, was a huge hit. The sound guided us and led us to believe the story would be about love and the ups and downs of life. The magnificent soundtrack playing as we walked in, crashed over us and wrapped us up in the story of Jack. The effects used to create the noises outside, for example, the background noise at pool gave so much life to those scenes.
The scenic design, which is not credited, was a miss. Instead of black curtains used to define the space, actual walls would’ve been nice to draw us further into the world of Jack and his friends. Alex Mason’s lighting design works and things transition effectively. The ambience created for the pool scenes were a highlight.
“Jack Goes Boating” offers a glimpse into the lives of everyday people trying to tread the waters of life. Will they live happily ever after? The director says in her director’s note, “[the show] reminds us how fragile and breakable sometimes beyond repair, love can be.” Sometimes there isn’t a happily ever after. Will Connie join Jack on his boat trip of life? You’ll just have to go see the show to find out.
“Jack Goes Boating” runs through Feb 18 at the Generic Theater in Little Hall (under Chrysler Hall). Get tickets here.