“Time seems to slow as this play moves at a pace akin to dripping molasses.” Kevin Corrigan, left, and Dominic Fumusa in Brett C. Leonard’s “Ninth and Joanie.”
The suppressed tension between the characters in Ninth and Joanie, presented by the Labrynth Theater Company, is enough to choke and suffocate you as you watch this two hour and fifteen minute play. Furthermore, time seems to slow as this play moves at a pace akin to dripping molasses. The first fifteen minutes consists of Charlie (Bob Glaudini), the domineering and verbally abusive father of Rocco (Kevin Corrigan) and Michael (Dominic Fumusa) stripping down to his underwear, and then neatly folding the articles of clothing one at a time. It is not until twenty minutes later that it is revealed to us that Charlie and Rocco had just come home from the funeral of their wife and mother, respectively. The audience is then offered a small break from this increasingly oppressive atmosphere in the form of a dancing and booze drinking Michael, who sneaks into the house while his brother and father are otherwise engaged. But this reprieve is short lived as moments later tensions between Charlie and Michael escalates into a catastrophic incidence that leaves the family reeling in tragedy once again.
The effects of the generally depressing and heavy atmosphere generated by Ninth and Joanie is clear when, after intermission, almost half of the audience does not return. But those who remain may have wished they had left when they are greeted by yet another unseeingly ending second act. This time the interactions between the characters seem laughably cliché as the actors tried their best to make the most out of the emotionally stunted script. Nevertheless the performances given by the actors are applaudable as they made the most out of their two dimensional characters. The actors instilled their own little quirks into their characters and gave them the edge that made them more than generic stereotypes from a dysfunctional family. Overall, Ninth and Joanie is a play riddled with problems, and even the admirable performances of the actors are not enough to save it from oppressive and impenetrable gloom it presents itself in.