Review: Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter (Something Marvelous)

| June 7, 2017

Arti Ishak and Randy Steinmeyer star as Leila and Johnny in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter, Something Marvelous           

   

Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter 

Written by Dana Lynn Formby
Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago (map)
thru Jun 18  |  tix: $22-$28  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     


    
  

World-premiere struggles with character nuance

  

Arti Ishak and Randy Steinmeyer star as Leila and Johnny in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter at Something Marvelous

    
Something Marvelous presents
    
Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter

Review by Lauren Whalen

War is hell. Not so coincidentally, that’s how I began my last review as well. In that case, Time Stands Still was a well-written play from a unique perspective of a female photographer who journeys to war zones and returns to the United States with debilitating injuries. Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter also profiles individuals in war zones – in this case a father and daughter – but instead of intelligent and unpredictable, this script is disappointing and cliché. Even the plot twist feels manufactured. The play may be the best-researched on the planet, but the writing doesn’t show it. A heavy-handed portrayal of war and familial relations, Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter feels like something I’ve seen before, many times.

Randy Steinmeyer and Arti Ishak star as Johnny and Leila in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter, Something MarvelousSpanning several years, Johnny 10 Beers’ has two characters: Johnny (Randy Steinmeyer), who endured several tours in the deadliest places, and his daughter Leila (Arti Ishak), who begins the play as a newly minted high school graduate. Leila lives with her mother in a small Colorado town, while Johnny has retired – from the military and from life – just up the mountain, where he is content to fish while fighting the demons of his past. Leila wants nothing more than to please her father, who’s alternately boisterous and distant, and she’s intrigued by his stories of bravery, and even more by the stories he won’t tell her. You can guess where this is going: Leila joins the Marines just like her dad, and goes from a wide-eyed youngster to a tough-talking soldier in no time. Will Johnny’s memories finally overcome him? Will Leila’s?

There are many nuanced stories to tell about war: the United States seems to be in a constant state of it, whether we’re sending more troops to Afghanistan or electing a reality TV show host who may or may not have ties to Russia and definitely should not have access to nuclear codes. Women fight. People of color fight. LGBTQ individuals fight. So why must there be yet another story of a grizzled old white male veteran? Playwright Dana Lynn Formby seems to have watched “Forrest Gump” and “Zero Dark Thirty” (the latter is even name-checked), but did she actually speak with any vets? The dialogue makes it appear that she didn’t, and veterans aren’t exactly in short supply. There are many ways Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter could have been more interesting and nuanced, but Formby’s script doesn’t allow for any of that. Emmi Hilger’s direction isn’t much better – neither of the two actors, both skilled in their own right, are able to make any connections or decisions that feel organic.

Randy Steinmeyer and Arti Ishak star as Johnny and Leila in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter at  Something MarvelousArti Ishak and Randy Steinmeyer star as Leila and Johnny in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter at Something Marvelous 2

Though Michelle Underwood’s projection design is overwrought and unnecessary, Nicholas Schwartz’s scenic design is among one of the play’s highlights. Schwartz has carefully considered every stacked piece of paper and every beer can, bringing to mind remote mountaintop and dry desert in equal measure. Steinmeyer does what he can with what’s basically a stock character, and as a result, some of Johnny’s moments with his daughter feel almost real. Ishak, a gifted rising star in the Chicago theater community, acts younger than a teenager in Leila’s early scenes, but finds some truth in her later iteration, a loyal Marine who begins not to recognize herself.

In today’s frightening political climate, Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter should have felt essential. Instead, Something Marvelous’ world premiere production feels unnecessary. There is unfortunately nothing particularly original or compelling about Formby’s script, only the same old war song. Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter misses an opportunity to tell the stories that need to be told.

  
Rating: ★★½
  

Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter continues through June 18th at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 3pm.  Tickets are $22-$28, and are available by phone (800-838-3006) or online through BrownPaperTickets.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at SomethingMarvelous.org(Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Arti Ishak and Randy Steinmeyer star as Leila and Johnny in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter, Something Marvelous

Photos by Anthony Aicardi 


  

artists

cast

Randy Steinmeyer (Johnny), Arti Ishak (Leila), Jameeleh Shelo (Leila u/s)

behind the scenes

Emmi Hilger (director, producer), Adam Greye (stage manager), Nicholas Schwartz (scenic director), Kara Grimm (lighting design), Barry Bennett (sound design), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (props design), Uriel Gomez (costume design), Michelle Underwood (projections design), Justin Glombicki (technical director), Gracie Meier (assistant producer), Nick Lannan (military consultant), Anthony Aicardi (photos), Zev Steinberg, Sean Douglass

Randy Steinmeyer and Arti Ishak star as Johnny and Leila in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter, Something Marvelous 2Randy Steinmeyer and Arti Ishak star as Johnny and Leila in Johnny 10 Beers Daughter, Something Marvelous

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Category: 2017 Reviews, Chicago Dramatists, Lauren Whalen, New Work, Something Marvelous, World Premier

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