Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kutumba Theatre Project: Julie Johnson (Reviews)

KutumbaJan OnstageThe Kutumba Theatre Project opens Julie Johnson at The Galleria Studio Theatre on January 18, 2014.

Julie is on the verge of a breakdown, when she decides that she "doesn't wanna be stupid no more", so she changes the course of her life. Set in Hoboken, NJ, Julie takes courageous steps to improve her mind by going back to school and journeys toward a new and exciting life. Julie and her best friend, Claire, explore a newfound interest in each other along the way. Julie Johnson is an inspiring story of courage told with lots of humor!

Kim Ehly directed a cast that included Valentina Izzara, Doug Wetzel, Casey Dressler, Skylar Voelker, and Julianna Rector.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

Julie Johnson doesn’t work without an appealing Julie, and Kutumba’s production certainly has one in Izarra. She is quirky as she reveals to Claire the stacks of science magazines she has hidden from her hubby, as if they were porn; sympathetic as she bears the verbal abuse of her self-centered daughters Lisa (Skylar Voelker) and Frankie (Julianna Rector); needy and determined as she interacts with her influential teacher, Mr. Miranda (Doug Wetzel). Izarra’s radiant Julie weathers each setback, and the audience roots for her as she pursues her dreams

Ehly has said that she launched the LGBT-focused Kutumba to bring stories that reflect the community’s experiences to the stage, focusing most frequently on lesbian-themed plays. Julie Johnson, a piece about one woman’s successful search for her authentic self, is a resonant realization of Ehly’s mission

Michelle F. Solomon wrote for Florida Theater On Stage:

The drawbacks of Julie Johnson is that elements of Hammond’s story make it rife with predictability, yet Kim Ehly and her Kutumba Theatre Project cast manage surprises around every turn.

Ehly’s insightful direction steers clear of making Julie a “gay play,” instead neatly keeping the focus on character and emotion. It helps that her two lead actresses, Valentina Izarra as Julie Johnson, and Casey Dressler as Claire, embrace their roles with a refreshingly tender abandon as they struggle in their search for identity.

Izarra… doesn’t have an ounce of pretentiousness in her genuine Jersey girl portrayal.

Julie Johnson’s minor flaws are outweighed by Ehly and Company’s deep commitment to the play and the director’s vision… The chances she takes as director and the choices she allows her actors to make — from the ’80s inspiration to how the characters interact — give Julie Johnson the jolt it needs to outshine its own predictability and elevate its status to genuine originality.

The Kutumba Theatre Project  presents Julie Johnson at The Galleria Studio Theatre through February 9, 2014.

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