Friday, December 4, 2009

review - The Two & Only!

The Two and Only!
written by & starring Jay Johnson
directed by Murphy Cross & Paul Kreppel
Colony Theatre
through December 13 only

How to describe The Two & Only!? Well, for starters, it's a one-man show about the life and career of comic/actor/artist/ventriloquist Jay Johnson. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, this show has a lot more to offer than your average solo show. Apart from being informative in a personal way and entertaining, it's also educational. The audience learns about the origins of ventriloquism, which includes negative as well as positive conceptions of it. Many viewed a ventriloquist as wicked or mentally ill. The entertainment side came later.
Enchanting us with a snake puppet, a nutcracker doll, a vulture and a monkey, as well as pal Squeaky (top photo above) and partner Bob, Johnson gives all of these creatures a
life of their own - they become living, breathing - aimiable - souls, each with his own special perspective on life...and quirky, screwball sense of humor. Most will remember Johnson from his 1970s gig on the TV sitcom Soap, in which he played Chuck and his alter ego Bob. There are memorable stories about Soap's producers and how Squeaky was passed over - because he was too gentle and sweet - in favor of another Dummy to play the irascible Bob. There is also a loving tribute to Johnson's mentor Art (Arthur) Sieving who fashioned Squeaky and remained Johnson's friend throughout his life.
Set design by Beowulf Boritt with its tiers of suitcases from which Johnson lovingly removes his treasures adds much intrigue. Direction by Cross and Kreppel (bottom photo above with Jay Johnson, left) is tight and caringly focused.
Describing himself as an artisan rather than an artist, Johnson humbly calls ventriloquism his job. After watching this man for 95 minutes, you will regard him as a true artist in every sense of the word ... whose talent not only keeps a dying art alive but captivates everyone within his warm, endearing presence.
5 out of 5 stars


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