Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'John and Jen'


John (Jon Jimenez) and his big sister Jen (Mikaela Duffy) are as close as two siblings separated by six years can be. They bond over sports and Santa, but when it's time for Jen to leave for college, she must break her promise to always protect John from their abusive father. Her departure triggers a tragic chain of events that leads to a predictable but still emotionally affecting ending.

Producer-director and longtime Fringe volunteer Jon Jimenez has staged the first act of Tom Greenwald & Andrew Lippa's published musical John
& Jen
with smart efficiency, using little more than a few chairs on the small Purple stage. The script is oddly unspecific about its time frame until it takes a sudden turn into 1960s counterculture, and it doesn't hold many surprises, but these talented young performers make a strong case for this modest musical's merits.

Keyboardist Anthony Riley (with cellist Ali Valerio and percussionist Aaron W. Penfield) renders the lyrical score with sensitivity, and Duffy delivers her songs with a big, beautiful belt that fills the room to bursting. Jimenez's voice is fine, if not as full as his co-star's, but he nicely underplays his character's internal arc. Duffy's facial expressions are somewhat overblown for the intimate space, especially in the lighter early scenes, but she leaves her heart on the floor in the finale.

John & Jen
Cat Scratch Players
Purple Venue

Wednesday, May 17, 8:00 PM
Friday, May 19, 5:30 PM
Sunday, May 21, 2:15 PM
Monday, May 22, 5:45 PM
Thursday, May 25, 8:45 PM
Saturday, May 27, 10:15 PM
Sunday, May 28, 11:15 AM